THE TAYLOR TRUST
POETRY & PROSE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
James Tarwood 64 Kimberly K. Thompson 66 Wanda Weiskopf 67 Allison Whittenberg 69 Fredrick Zydek 70
EDITOR’S LETTER Still Night Thoughts 3
NONFICTION Mary L. Ports 75 Penny Skillman 77
ANNOUNCEMENTS Title Contest Winners, Voting, Advertising, Subscribing 4
FLASH FICTION Kimberly K. Thompson 85
POETRY Guy. R. Beining 6 Eve Jeannette Blohm 7 David Breeden 9 Shelly Bryant 10 J.F. Connolly 13 Ellen Cooney 17 Rob Couteau 18 Larry Crist 19 Renata Dawidowicz 20 Michael Estabrook 22 John Fitzpatrick 24 Raymond John Flory 26 Hugh Fox 27 Ray Greenblatt 28 Alamgir Hashmi 30 Carol Ann Howell 31 Emmanuel Jakpa 33 Michael Lee Johnson 36 Mahdy Y. Khaiyat 38 Syd Knowlton 39 Pamela L. Laskin 40 Lin Lifshin 41 Abraham Linik 43 Jack Lorts 44 Janet McCann 46 Christopher Mulrooney 48 Trisha Nelson 49 B.Z. Niditch 51 Mary L. Ports 53 Diana Raab 55 E.B. Reed 57 Alex Shepard 59 Penny Skillman 61 Kevin Strong 62
FICTION Jack Clubb 89 Celine Rose Mariotti 92 Michael Onofrey 98 ADVERTISING
DEDICATED TO JAIME, for his endless patience and quiet support throughout the birthing of this opus.
Thank you to the staff: Jaime Pickell and Timothy Wang & Roger & Ron at AV Printing for priceless advice and help Published quarterly: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall The Taylor Trust: Poetry & Prose Poetry by the People, for the People Published by Excellence Enterprises P.O. Box 903456 Palmdale, California 93550-3456 firstname.lastname@example.org thetaylortrust.wordpress.com
STILL NIGHT THOUGHTS Moonlight in front of my bed ~/I took it for frost on the ground!/I lift my eyes to watch the mountain moon,/lower them and dream of home. Li Po, 701-762 When a friend recently asked me why I wanted to start a poetry magazine, there was a long pause, then we both said simultaneously, “Because you can.” We were both right. It’s my Everest, I’m climbing it because it’s there and because I have the technical expertise that it takes to achieve the summit. I love the immediacy of publishing a periodical. So last summer I made the decision to use the skills that had taken me a lifetime to develop and take the first baby steps toward publishing this journal. I love getting to know people, even if I will probably accomplish this in only a very limited way via their short bios and courtesy of the Internet. I also admire thoughtful creativity and what develops from it, such as successful poetry. My vision for the magazine is to make it a friendly, welcoming venue that enables people to showcase their art. The work that is published is important, but equally important to me are the people behind the work. I hope the design we’ve developed here reflects that philosophy. The Poet’s Market for 2009 boasts 1,600 listings. Why on earth would there need to be yet another poetry publication? Well, the answer came shortly after our start-up was announced in The Writer and Poets and Writers magazines. This edition runs to more than a hundred pages, yet we weren’t able to publish all the contributions. We were overjoyed and overwhelmed by the response, so apparently there is, indeed, room for one more. THE NITTY-GRITTY While I firmly believe there is no such thing as “bad poetry,” I also believe there is successful poetry and that which is less successful. On the next page you will find information about the process of voting for the work that you find the most effective and affective. We also have listed the winners of the title contest at the page top. Next are the names of angels whose contributions are helping to keep us afloat. There is also information about how to subscribe. I hope people will find the magazine interesting and attractive enough to motivate them to do so. We also accept advertising, the funds of which will help us keep the dream alive. WELCOME TO THE DEBUT ISSUE The first section is devoted to poetry, then we move to nonfiction prose, flash fiction, and finally short stories. The subject matter ranges widely from the holiday season (see Kevin Strong’s work on page 62); to love poetry by Michael Estabrook on page 22, appropriate for Valentine’s Day and inspired by his feelings for his wife. We have worldview poetry such as that by Emmanuel Jakpa on page 33, and amusing poetry such as Trisha Nelson’s “Letter to Dillards” on page 49. We are honored to know the authors and to be allowed to publish their art. Writers who work under difficult circumstances, yet continue to produce, sent in poetry. And those living in far-flung places such as Singapore, Japan, and Ireland contibuted as well. Writers from differing backgrounds have sent us their work, many of them educators, for whom I have the highest regard because of my own association with teaching. I hope you enjoy The Taylor Trust as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. My best to you always, LaVonne Taylor Editor & Publisher
TITLE CONTEST WINNERS A judging panel of seven people chose: First place winner — Taylor’s Tidings — Mary L. Ports Second place winner — Taylor Tayles — Raymond John Flory Third place winner — The Poetry Road — Eve Jeannette Blohm We wish to thank all those who participated. The final title, The Taylor Trust: Poetry & Prose, was a result of the brainstorming energy that came from many people and we sincerely wish everyone could have won. ANGELS Syd Knowlton Tim Wang Wanda Weiskopf VOTING In each issue you will find an enclosed ballot slip so you can list the names of the top ten poems that you found most successful. You can mail the ballot back with your next submittals or e-mail the list. The winners’ names will be announced in the next issue. ADVERTISING Advertising is welcome Please e-mail a request for rates: email@example.com HOW TO SUBSCRIBE One year $24 Two years $46
Send checks to: The Taylor Trust P.O. Box 903456 Palmdale, CA 93550-3456 4
GUY R. BEINING MAUVE MOVE 30 bo: it was a movie too stellar to recall. spectre: what rot. when the lady dropped her feather hat in the bay … bo: it seemed as if the boats were disappearing straight into the sunlight. spectre: such bone and fiddle bosh. on a diving board in the sun this luxury liner divided his thoughts as he dissolved gulls fish in beads of light and water. there is no sky no note no page no pen.
MAUVE MOVE 33 malapropism wheelbarrow woof loth leapt from the pages of sizzle straight into the mauve move terrain. his skin gave off the tint of a worm that had surfaced from the dark earth of a damp april evening. he turned on his poet’s light but it was too dull and measured little more than his narrow forehead that he wiped with the smallest of tissues while he nodded feebly realizing that he had shrunk to the point where he could not lift himself up onto his writing chair. all this was caused by stinging words that jarred his mind.
Guy R. Beining’s work has recently appeared in Chain, Epiphany, perspektive (Germany), New Orleans Review, and The New Review of Literature.
EVE JEANNETTE BLOHM PASSING IMAGES 4.
A horse collapses A jogger suddenly stops Like an ancient statue He bends doing his Stretching exercises Is he posing or acting In a drama for us to view or watch?
Outside our windows Pigeons fly restlessly Ledge to ledge Unable to find a home My heart too moves. Watching cranes fly Toward an unknown land A long journey needs a companion.
Trees change color, Over a table, Friends exchange news As an artist draws. We are drawn to him As he magically fills A canvas, we stop And are amazed To see one of our Favorite places.
The clock has a dial. We cannot change, Until we turn forward. 6. Along the park path, Squirrels beg for food While a man sits on A park bench and reads.
People on a park bench Strutting pigeons A man Selling fruits Another, flowers People gaze Not looking Stares on their faces.
Brown barren land And majestic mountains Have absence of color The land of sky Blend at the horizon. 8. A lone egret walks On wild sand dunes While we drive, I ask, Will asphalt Replace grass and sand?
9. Gray skies replace blue An airplane descends Showing patches Of green and brown After time, everything Becomes, clearer 10. Cherry trees flower Blow in a breeze After the storm, Tree branches break. 11. Weeping willows stand A quiet pond Country lane Deserted field Where can you retreat? Memories are the only place.
WHITE FLOWERS White carnations in a vase Puffs of cotton or snowball Apple blossom petals fall To the ground like snowflakes We wish for a bouquet Of spring flowers and Garden of roses and A rustic stone bench.
12. Blue skies or ocean White caps break over rocks A concrete sidewalk replaces Sand and beach An old banyan lives To tell many tales. 13. The golden flames burn As shadows dance on the wall.
Award-winning poet Eve Jeannette Blohm’s work has appeared in Parnassus, SeLa Vie Writers Journal, Cochran’s Corner, Poets at Work, Lucidity, Lone Star Magazine, Bell’s Letters Poet, United Amateur Press. She was a featured poet in Haiku Headlines, Poets Fantasy, Simply Words and voted distinguished poet in PAW. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she also appears in Who’s Who. Blohm writes in New York.
DAVID BREEDEN PANTOUM: KILLING THE WHITE SPIDER Letting go is not an easy thing It’s dark clouds in drought And so wanting rain It’s a bus trip at night, no signs It’s dark clouds in drought Waiting for rain, getting darkness It’s a bus trip at night, no signs Wandering where and where Waiting for rain, getting darkness Wandering where and where And so wanting rain Letting go is not an easy thing
THE USUAL APOLOGIES Trophies pulled from cars ~ Eyeglasses, binoculars A Lugar, bayonet, buttons Gold fillings in a matchbox A watch on a chain My father and uncles out Under the shade trees After Sunday dinner, beer And cigarettes, they talked Until it sounded logical
David Breeden has an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, a PhD from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School. An accomplished poet, novelist, and Unitarian Universalist minister, Breeden’s latest book of poems is Stigmata. His next novel will be out soon from Fine Tooth Press.
~ I got this off A dead Jap ~ This Off a dead German They talked until it Sounded logical Until they became Old men as dead As the young men They’d killed
SHELLY BRYANT COLLAPSE Suntanned shoulders of a goddess ~ her figure still firm and full ~ she stops to catch a breath at the view
Ashy hands ~ like a lepers’ at the end of frail frame’s lanky arms ~ catch their balance against the wall’s filth
Stepping from her cruise vessel into tropical warmth ~ perfect image of an island paradise, Like a holiday brochure
Stepping over the drain’s muddy waters ~ Muggy heat, her island home’s unchanging oppression called weather
Down the gangplank onto the crowded thoroughfare Into the shade of a posh cool oasis for a quick midday bite
Over the drain onto the crowded thoroughfare Dashing across to the hard shell coast, searching out some useful scraps
Over sashimi ~ a light lunch after the weekend’s endless engagements: champagne brunches late lunches buffets and imported beers
Stopping at the shore in the jetty’s shade ~ Discarded half rotted fishy flesh makes a meal ~ the first protein ingested since sometime late last week, she thinks
~ reflecting on the new promotion ~ or promotions (a matching his-and-hers set this time round) ~ Nicely coinciding with Jr.’s graduation, doubling the cause for celebration
~ a less empty stomach after skipped lunch dinner and breakfast this 30-some hours ~ sighing for work to be had ~ or wishing he hadn’t left her pregnant but alone (at least the abortion had been a success) ~
(Not that Jr. whiles away in celebration, focused on preparation for further education)
Youth’s all night parties now passing regrets ~ if survival allows leisure for regret
Dark thoughts settle on the bottle, the pills ~ stowed securely lurking in the depths of her handbag’s darkest crevices ~ Her release from stress
Pulling her mind up out of the dark pit, her empty belly ~ Not giving ear to hunger’s aching whine, nor barrenness’s seductive calls to lie down, letting relief wash numbly over ~
Escape, before it eats even further into her slipping sanity, crushed into the mind’s cage ~ struggling for breath
For today ~ one more day ~ Death’s left wanting Waiving its demand on the light of indom-inate-able desire ~ yogic stretch
Each bitter tablet a small pack of relief ~ ingested, sucked down, struggling ceases ~ her respite ~
reaching out for life’s light, bright at the end of some tunnel ~ hands refusing to be re-bound
Taken by the handful, perhaps the final path to nirvana’s rich enlightened space ~
A sharp glint strikes her eye from a spot just past the jetty’s shade ~ A shining dropped coin
~ the release into Darkness, an inky and forgetful paradise ~ at last unbound ~ left alone forever free
Grasping it with a grin, her mind settles on the image of Clarissa-the-beggar-girl’s sparkling smile when this unburied treasure clinks in her can
Her meal consumed she moves back out into the crowded thoroughfare and its whitehot glare ~
Turn left, two blocks ~ if theyâ€™re called blocks on unmarked unpaved lanes ~ through the sultry streets, past the beggar girl and the single coin clinking all alone in her can
With belly half-filled she moves upshore into the crowds on the thoroughfare and its oppression until finding her accustomed seat in the heat near the marketâ€™s corner
On to the market, where tourists can buy a little local color
Awaiting goddesses to descend from the just-docked liner
Her shadow falls as she strolls ~ falls on that of another, collapsing her dark reflection with that of a frail hunched frame ~
A shadow falls across her own ~ falls across it, collapsing her dark reflection with that of a figure standing, proud ~
Her black eyes lapsing into reverie on the shadowed concrete
Her pale cloudy eyes lapse into reverie, at rest on the shaded concrete
Shelly Bryant spends half her time in Singapore, where she teaches English literature at a private university, and half her time in Shanghai, where she studies Chinese language. She loves to read, write, travel, and cycle. Her poems have most recently appeared in Scifaikusest, Sloth Jockey, The Pink Chameleon, The Fifth Di ..., Southern Ocean Review, and The Shantytown Anomaly.
MEMORY It’s what we can’t see that gets us. You recall your mother crying into pieces of jewelry she holds in her hands, telling you to stay inside, that you can’t go out and play ~ and you’re begging her to go to where your mind forgets, a place behind that left hook, that blindside block ~ those boyhood places that still ache when December mornings enter your bones ~ that day she took a life, her own, you say, seeing nothing: thirty-two years and all you have is her bruised skin, a dark blue, a dead body and, now, a knee that locks up, teeth that won’t line up, a jaw that never closes right.
THE WEATHERWOMAN predicted the speed of collapse. Hurricane after hurricane, we tuned in to watch the floods, the cadavers washed up on city streets. That summer she reported the facts and numbers like a sentinel passing his watch. Each night she appeared in a new skirt and an angelic smile. My wife and I loved her. We took note of every change: her haircut, the hurried words, her loss of weight. One night a dark-haired man replaced her. His voice reminded us of an old friend, and then, after a week without her voice, she was back, cheery and bright as the hope in a change of season. An umbrella on her shoulder, she forecast the sun and a long, dry spell. That evening she was brilliant. She thanked her viewers for their cards and told us that “love takes us to the strangest of places.” We never saw her again. The anchor announced her passing in a mournful way that segued into the statistics of suicide, the latitude and longitude of love. We packed our bags and flew to Chicago to bury her in the plot she bought. She would never come home, This woman of sky and clouds and rain. She was the girl who had the world, who had the day’s weather report, our girl, the girl we always had to watch.
DAYBREAK In ten below cold, December darkness, you crank the engine, the Volkswagen bug grr-whirling, grinding, and the clutch popping to catch the starter ~ you see yourself back in the General’s jeep, late again that week to meet the one-star general, to deliver him to his brigade staff. With dawn’s light breasting, the wheel locked, the battery almost dead, and the clutch ice-held, you began to weep a young soldier’s fear. You can’t move the gears, gloves too thin, hands numb, and you’re late again to teach the lesson on the urn. Mr. Keats means nothing today: the General returns your snappy salute and shouts “the bumper”: the C.G.’s one-star and flag are missing: “sorry,” a child’s foolish plea, won’t cut your fuck-up and another day of mistakes is on. “A marvelous day for war,” he says. He smiles. “Get your head out of your ass.” You’re a private caught in a jacklight. You’re dumb and fatigued. Your head is where? You won’t remember the body bags. You’re stuck in the bug. You need a jump-start. What neighbor to call? That one-star’s bumper. His son killed himself with the pearl-handled pistol, his father’s .45, the prize the general called his “Patton.” Why this today? Yesterday you were in Browning, reaching for more than a man can handle. You’d like to call her, your brothers, your life ~ and what’s an insult? What you can’t get back. You’re sixty-four and ought to quit. In twenty years, you’re sure to be dead-tagged. You’re waiting. You want the cold bug to start. You want that hard-nosed one-star at close range ~ to say what? You’d give anything to bring her back, happy and among the living.
What’s a heaven for? You don’t understand how an engine works. If you could, cold-eyed, you’d coldcock terror with another chance and lift the cadavers from their coffins. The cables you never replaced are shot. You ought to buy a new car, go to Florida to forget the dead, to let the poems disappear, to abandon the lessons, the lectures, all the ideas that can’t bring her back. At the cemetery, at her frozen grave, the Chrysler broke down. And isn’t it sad for an aging man, after all these years, to still mourn his mother’s suicide? To still believe he could have saved her? This is what life is you say to yourself. You’ve got one try left, and you twist the key to start the machine. It catches. It moans its way to rroom, and you’re backing up, turning carefully, pumping gas, hoping the line’s not frozen: you’re driving to class, to the little town, mountain-built with a peaceful citadel, emptied of its folk, today, a pious morn.
The sixty-two year-old J.F. Connolly has been teaching for forty years, the last twenty-six years at Milton Academy, where he is the only current Master Teacher in the Upper School. In the Brockton Public School System, where he was an English Department Chairman, he established one of the finest high school creative writing programs in the country. Connolly has published eighty-eight poems and several short stories. For decades his students have consistently won all of the major national and regional writing contests open to secondary school students. He has had eleven Presidential Scholars in Creative Writing, and, in 2001, he received the National Foundation of the Arts Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award. Connolly has won many awards for writing and teaching, most notably the Hemingway Fiction Competition and the Galway Kinnell Poetry Prize. He has co-authored two textbooks, Poeima and Touching All Bases: A Rhetoric of Self Discovery. He also has won two chapbook competitions: the Philbrook Poetry Award, selected by Martin Espada, which resulted in the publication of Last Summer, and The Comstock Review’s Jessie Bryce Niles Award, which resulted in the publication of Among the Living. A retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Reserve, Connolly is married, has three children, and lives with his wife, Sandra Connolly, in Milton, Massachusetts.
FAREWELL, COUNTESS farewell, countess with your hundred jewels this maple tree with its emerald leaves golden leaves ruby leaves each a brilliant kingdom with a thousand songs weaves a far more beautiful tapestry than you ever shall
CHINESE NEW YEAR PARADE
ANNIVERSARY OF TALLIS’ DEATH playing your masses and motets again crossing four hundred years to hear men sing your Christian dream crossing London to Greenwich to your tomb and the organ you played on by this river out of which you brought forth the lilies and diamonds of your music were you not an angel heaven sent and not of this race of mankind lent to teach us God’s music now you are back in that heaven again where angels sing your songs always and for us “Tallis is dead Tallis is dead and musick dies”
welcome again golden dragon you usher in the light fertilize us give us your earthy vigor bring in the spring sun and the spring rains welcome again golden lion most treasured one of the emperor’s court we dance with you in the streets of the city protect us
Ellen Cooney lives and writes in Northern California.
THE TWENTY-NINTH BATHER “Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather, The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.” (Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)
ALL AROUND THE WORLD
Whitman was the twenty-ninth bather ~ Disguised as a frowsy maiden, through her eyes he relived every sunbeam every glittering stream of river water beading down the young men’s breasts.
There is nothing but this life there is nothing but this death all around the world we know this is so there is nothing but this song.
He lifted his Victorian skirts and waded knee deep and he touched the bathers unseen, radiant in his delight.
Rob Couteau is a writer and visual artist from Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of the novel, Doctor Pluss, and the epistolary memoir, Letters from Paris. In 1985 he won the Fourth Annual North American Essay Award, a competition open to writers throughout North America and sponsored by the American Humanist Association. He has published poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews in publications such as Anima, Bloomsbury Review, Chrysalis, Confluent Education Journal, The Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, The Paris Voice, and West Hills Review: A Walt Whitman Journal. After expatriating to Paris for twelve years, Couteau currently resides in New Paltz, New York.
God got bored and invented man Man got bored and craved woman Woman got bored and had kids One kid got bored and killed the other And they were off only God knew where and even he wasn’t sure He tried to command them He tried flushing them out He tried educating them His boy was killed And God died soon after cosmologically speaking as recorded by philosophers the iconoclasts the truly bored And humanity grew bored and waged war
grew bored with war and waged peace until this grew too boring And out of this all this boring war and peace television was born unleashing boredom unfathomable Somewhere on another planet they are watching I Love Lucy Gilligan’s Beaver and Walter Cronkite telling how many died that day alongside a laugh track Cash Cab is coming
Larry Crist’s poetry has appeared in many venues, some among the many include California Quarterly, Red Rock Review, Buckle &, Phantasmagoria, and Red Hawk Review. He has also published stories in Words of Wisdom, Dorothy Parker’s Elbow: Tattoo anthology, Dos Passos Review, Permafrost, and was a winner in a Toyon short story contest.
VOICES Their piercing voices scream to us From their entombed graves Entrenched in a building standing no more Blood oozing out of their flesh As their remains are no more They are now scattered in the dust That blows through New York Love from all over surrounds them now They are never really gone from us As long as we live We will remember the day New York cried Being human is to feel the suffering of all man Boundless tears fall with deep emotional pain If only we could turn the clock back And this disaster never happened But it keeps ticking into time Only memories exist now Of riding up the elevator of the World Trade Center Higher and higher and then disappearing forever God help us now
SCRIPT OF LIFE
Egyptian mummy you ain’t no dummy Laid out to rest Still preserved After all the years of unrest Fooled us all We can’t figure out How they kept you from dust After all these years Amazing how well you rest
The script of my life is being written I’ve been filling in all the lines The beginning line set the stage While the rest is being filled in gradually I don’t have the ending yet It will be read by someone else
COUNTER Humphrey Bogart in his stylish Stetson and trench coat His portrait staring at me from the counter where I sit An old painting of a frilly dressed woman Where Coca-Cola is advertised at five cents Marilyn Monroe paintings in different poses She could stand the test of time And look at us as beautiful as ever I will never be able to sit at this counter again In this nostalgia atmosphere of yesterday Since I heard the place had burned down I catch an early morning walk And enjoy this desert scenery Being all built up to match the civilization of now The cactus standing up to the heavens With their different assortment of sizes Enchanting in their sandy surroundings To catch the beauty of life always changing And open my soul to this existence of humanity Is overwhelming with treasures stored in my mentality For future generations to dwell on Beyond my grave Love You
Catch the essence of now Two round dart sets on a green velvet background Different horn instruments situated around the vicinity of the room A saxophone in an old used case with red velvet Is in front of me at the bar counter I can see by it’s worn condition It has been put to good use in times past A wedding party stops by for drinks dressed so swell A large black flowered hat and a long straight black dress Makes a very distinguished sight Talk about the past and what happened to who It seeps with memory of what was Where it’s all headed to The romance of now The wedding is on when the bridal party arrives It’s total magic The beauty of time The prolific Renata Dawidowicz has published more than three hundred poems in many venues, among them Bell’s Letters Poet, The Poet, The Sounds of Poetry, and Silver Wings. She is a member of The International Academy of Poets and has won many awards. Her book, 20th Century Now, is available from Plowman. Dawidowicz lives and works in Michigan.
I COULD HAVE LOST YOU I could have lost you at the outset in high school when you returned my ring to me because I was moving too fast. I could have lost you when we first went off to college and you decided you needed to date other boys for the freedom, for the experience. I could have lost you because we were apart, at different colleges and you did date another guy and you did have plenty of boyfriends trailing along behind you all over the campus. But, for whatever the reasons I did not lose you, you never left me like you could have for another guy, you remained mine, mine, blessing my life with your beautiful, superlative self when certainly you could have done better. Yes, I could have lost you but I didn’t, and I don’t know why you are still mine. If I live 1,000 years, I’ll never be able to figure that one out.
JUST LIKE PATTI DID In college, Linda went on a blind-date once with someone besides Freddie, with a friend of her roommate’s boyfriend, just like Patti did with some guy other than me ~ with a friend of her roommate’s boyfriend. Such a coincidence. But nothing came of it, it was only one date, and nothing happened, and it didn’t matter, and there was never another one. I guess friends did such things for one another, when their boyfriends brought a friend who needed a date, and knowing this for some reason makes me feel so much better.
HOW COULD I NOT? If I didn’t know you yet saw you today, on the street or in a store, in classroom or on the dance floor, I would fall in love with you all over again, I know I would. I’d fall in love with you as I did all those many years ago. How could I not? How could any man not? Just look at you! I’d fall in love with your smile and your shining mink-coat brown eyes. I’d fall in love with your laugh and your legs, your delicate hands and precious feet. I’d fall in love with you, with all of you. How in the world could I not? And more than anything in the whole world I would want you to let me love you, to have and to hold you, to pamper and to worship you, until the breath left my body for good.
Michael Estabrook says, “Over the years I’ve published a few chapbooks and appeared in some terrific poetry magazines, but you are only as good as your next poem and like a surfer searching for that perfect wave, I’m a poet prowling for that next perfect poem. Right now I am looking for that perfect poem in my wife, who just happens to be the most beautiful woman I have ever known. If I find it anywhere I’ll find it in her.”
JOHN FITZPATRICK THE HORN OF DILEMMA Now, true to self, any principle may take a diversion into other possibilities. That sets the common folk to questioning, the scientists too, even artists who have lived this maxim since time evolved. Maybe it was since leaving Lascaux to chisel on palettes of stone open to marauding eyes which began the critique of work done. Aegeus and Hellena had wanted more flesh on lines drawn. Arista grudgingly obliged although he had thought the same idea once his eyes acclimated to sun and his hand dipped fibers into mix of herbs and berries. It was this meddling nature of views that unsettled his focus. Oh, for the darkness of solitude, he thought. But once out, he could not return. He picked up stone and sharpened tool, to try that instead. Bulbous lines to fill in. That looks better, observed Mentor. Yes, I believe so, chimed Camilla. More freedom to Arista, she shouted. He liked that. Just then, Ascanius came with hide of deer scraped and cleaned, ready to wear. Are you modeling that for us? Camilla asked, pondering the possibilities for her own use but Arista has other ideas and bartered a portrait of Ascanius in stone for this hide of venture. I’ll make it as impressive as possible, Arista said, allowing for discretion and weather. The bargain took. The image shaped itself. Chips of stone flew. Grunts and groans. Ocher for flesh. Charcoal for eyes. Pigments for shadow and depth. I’m satisfied, Ascanius said. I’ll tell others, Camilla broadcast. All Arista wanted to do was find a way to stretch this skin to see what could be done by light of moon, by desire of sun.
skin of water,
It was yesterday that I recognized
sheds when warmth requires it. Like stars that move on. Their trail of debris floating downstream
the vast difference between the known and the unknown.
enjoying the venture
Perhaps nothing of significance but into the dark night I ventured.
but returning again and again as if on orbit control, wonder of movement. This
My balance tipping beyond my reach.
shedding of cells
I saw the consequences of giving in to the desire of satisfaction.
keeping vibrancy alive. A sea sponge hard but flexible scrubbing away
Nothing came of it but the knowing that one day I will be unable to control the fall,
decisions that change with circumstance. Wonder that anything survives, there but not there. I look.
the downing of desire into the chasm of space ~
I become. I become again and again. Always change that hardens, only to reverse itself to be
imbalance ~ then the coming to,
free once more.
the waiting for help I did not want but now needed.
John Fitzpatrick has received Vermont Studio Center poetry residencies, the Hackney Poetry Literary Award from Birmingham-Southern College, honors in City Works, Mad Poets Review, Confluence, Taproot Literary Review, and Clark College Writers, with other poems published or forthcoming in Yalobusha Review, The MidAmerica Poetry Review, California Quarterly, Luna Negra, The Cape Rock, Plainsongs, SLAB, Out of Line, Snow Monkey, The Rock River Times, ICON, Common Ground Review, Willard & Maple, Chronogram & others. His 2000 New York Universityâ€™s Doctoral dissertation treated the poet as writer and reader of poetry, with poets Barbara Unger and Michael Burkard participating in his research.
RAYMOND JOHN FLORY FIELDS OF LAVENDER
A CHILD NOT BORN
When the winds are high and the sun is low there is a place where I wish to go … In fields of lavender.
A child not born. A dream so forlorn … Crying in the night. Running in the sunlight. Falling into loving arms. Smiling with delightful charms. Getting onto a school bus. Running home with a rush. The joy of a wedding day. Always in my heart you’ll stay. A dream so forlorn … A child not born.
Memories of love so sweet take me to that place where we would meet and silently steal away … In fields of lavender. The aroma of those happy days lingers in so many ways the scent of Heaven’s dawn where angels sing and dance … In fields of lavender.
FANTASYLAND Come away with me into the land of fantasy … Let’s walk hand-in-hand through the enchanted forest, and climb majestic mountains. We’ll paint rainbows in the sky, dance with butterflies, sing soft summer songs, and then ride the misty moon.
Raymond John Flory is a frequent contributor to Bell’s Letters Poet among others and has established an award program for fellow poets called The Explorer Award. Formerly a longtime publisher of a poetry and short prose periodical called Explorer Magazine, he lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana.
HUGH FOX UNCONNECTED Unconnected to trick or treating, All Souls/ All Saints Day, mired in our own soullessness, as Thanksgiving (for what?) looms on the horizon of Chanukah/Christmas masslessness, solsticing and equinoxing into crucifixions and resurrections that mean as much to us as the nightly WGN Nothing News.
BOSS The Amazon MD boss comes home every night (time-change) and it’s dark, “The only thing we ever wanted men for was kids and we killed the boys, kept the girls. I don’t know why I ever married you!” prostate cancer, orchiectomy, from Samos but she hardly has an accent now, “I love LIGHT, LIGHT, LIGHT, I’m gonna make my own time-change, set the clock three hours ahead, three, four, five … I want LIGHT, LIGHT, LIGHT as long as I can have it,” at first uncertainly but then whole-heartedly, giving me a hug.
DON’T “Don’t mention clouds, rivers, birds, rain or snow, this is big-byte territory now …,” as the moon begins to carve out a tentative C, the badgers are squashed all over the late Fall highway, 90% of the audience listening to Copland’s “Simple Gifts” now and then coughing as Washington applauds because only thirty Americans were killed in Iraq today.
Hugh Fox lives and writes in East Lansing, Michigan.
WAITING FOR THE WORD
TOURIST We judge almost everything by the hotel room; bed sheets must be like every beautiful bedroom in this new country, window views the essence of the city flickering past, the bureau typical of all foreign antiques; down to the very crack in the bathroom wall unlike anything at home, we’re quite sure. The maid speaks a language of the finest citizens what she says must be front page, her seeming homeliness a special type of comeliness; and when we return from a bus tour as if going to a ‘50’s movie with Sensorama effects odors and tingles fast fading, we rush to any restaurant to savor dregs or elegance who knows, we can’t live here.
Through the filth, degradation pain, an inmate of Auschwitz waits for the right word; surrounded by light and wine and camaraderie the poets speak of jazz, existentialism, humor late into the night. The victim waits and nods waits and nods until almost offhandedly he hears the word Hope and his ancient soul sleeps; the poets not knowing what they have contributed to the world beyond.
ENGLISH GRAY Gray morning light. First cigarette then the coughing, or is it the opposite. Gray sheets. Room could be cozy yet bed squeaks metallically and floor carpetless. Couple prints on walls but creeping grayness reveals meandered cracks and lank wallpaper. Gray skin. Writers like Auden and Larkin caught in this cage, how can they create such luxuriant and resonant poems, which take them and us out of this world while being in it?
Ray Greenblatt lives and writes in Paoli, Pennsylvania.
ALAMGIR HASHMI NEW ORLEANS, 2005* Drained of voice, even need, itâ€™s secure as the sea it now makes peace with. Sure runs in the blue veins of those gone ~ elsewhere. The same magnolia blossoms around Evangeline. At her side drops a pintail. Its still eye pictures Venice by default. No jazz for the Duke, what with the croaking of politicians. All cities are returned to the land like Atlantis. No heir is untrue. She will take us all in again: me, even him, you. *Lines written in witness of the aftermath of Katrina, a hurricane that destroyed the U.S. city.
Alamgir Hashmi has published eleven books of poetry and several volumes of literary criticism in the United States, Canada, England, Australia, India, Pakistan, and other countries. His recent work has appeared in Natural Bridge, Connecticut Review, and Water~Stone Review. He has won a number of national and international awards and honors, and his work has been translated into several European and Asian languages. For more than three decades he has taught in European, Asian, and U.S. universities, as Professor of English and Comparative Literature.
CAROL ANN HOWELL
WE ARE NOT GODDESSES
NO SOMOS DIOSAS
We are blood and breath ~ Not goddesses Nor slaves Nor beasts of burden Nor birds of prey But heat and fire Dry ice boiling in its caldron.
Somos sangre y respiro no diosas Ni esclavas Ni béstias de carga Ni aves de presa Sino calor y fuego Hielo de vapor hirviendo en su caldera. Somos electricidad inundaciones Somos ciclones Montañas del mar Ríos efusivos y ágitados
We are electricity Floods We are cyclones Mountains of the sea Gushing tumbling rivers We are silent earth that CRACKS and spews boiling liquid We are everything that is alive, worth attention and contemplation We are no holds barred Hearts wide open We are emotion and control Heels dug in Jaws set
Somos tierra silenciosa que se ROMPE y arroja líquido caliente Somos todo lo que está vivo, que merece atención y contemplación Somos sin restricción Corazones muy abiertos Somos emoción y control Talones en la tierra Mandíbulas rígidas
We are eyes of diamonds Wisps of sand blown up into a dance Angel hair, flying cotton candy
Somos ojos de diamantes Briznas de arena soplada en un baile Cabello de angel, dulce algodón volante
We are rain that drenches you We are sun that dries you We give you drink then drain you of tears, sweat & semen
Somos llúvia que te remoja Somos sol que te seca Te damos de beber y luego extraemos tus lágrimas, sudor y semen
We are everything and anything that has ever turned your life upside down
Somos todo por quién tu vida está de cabeza Somos quienes te hacemos dormir y la que te hacemos quedar despierto
We are what puts you to sleep and what keeps you awake We are what makes you do the impossible and what makes you give up Somos quienes te hacemos
hacer lo imposible y la que te hace abandonar todo
We are what makes you live and what makes you want to die We give you birth and bring you death
Somos quienes te hacemos vivir y la que te hace querer morir
We are what makes you a man rather than a mass of blood and intestines
Te damos nacimiento y te traemos la muerte
We are the seed of your tree the flower of your fruit
Somos quienes te hacemos ser hombre más que una masa de sangre e intestinos
Through us you have known what life is
Somos la semilla de tu árbol la flor de tu fruta
It’s not safe A little joy can hurt you terribly Enjoy your pain You are alive and You are a man!
Somos tus sentidos A través de nosotras has sabido lo que la vida es No es segura Un poco de alegría puede herirte terriblemente Goza tu dolor Estás vivo y eres hombre!
We are not goddesses We are women!
No somos diosas Somos mujeres!
Carol Ann Howell tells the story of “We Are Not Goddesses”: “I wrote it when I lived in Malibu. I read it there at the Atlantis Boutique. The owner liked it so much that she painted the words all over the wall like a mural. I know it was up there at least two years, maybe it’s still there. Then I took the poem to Antigua, Guatemala. I read it for thousands. People from all over the world heard it. They stomped their feet and cheered! They stopped me in the street to ask for a copy. I read it on their national television, Nuestro Mundo por la Mañana, women called in and wanted a copy. They said it was Their words. When I translated it, it was difficult because I had so many English idioms in it. But I found a way to say dry ice — vapor. I find that it is difficult to read two pieces side by side, because it can never be translated exactly.” Howell lives and works in Florida.
ART AND HEART We hold our words, never to say I love ... whoever. We belt our desires to the seat of amelioration, smile, laugh, bite whenever like the fingers of crabs. So far it keeps our heart in a safe place, does it matter? Think we play hide and seek, hide and seek, hide and seek, art against hearts. DIASPORA How we seek the ease of distance and time, the ease of Zodiac and signs. The ships that long time ago So far it keeps our heart carried through the Atlantic my children, in a safe place, does it ever matter? and the chains that dragged them through the Sahara, carried unaware my fertile seeds, carried unaware my aim.
Today, gladly I see my children citizens of all countries ~ members of all families of men. Today, gladly I see my children know all cultures, languages and creeds. Today, gladly my dream I see, the dream I had envisaged from the beginning ~ my secret. Now I sing I, the Iroko, the Nile, Kilimanjaro, with plenteous grace I sing, I have the identity of every race. I am my own identity ~ Africa and the Diaspora maze.
RESPONSE TO W.C. WILLIAMS “It is difficult to get the news from poems. Yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” — William Carlos Williams Sir, Why the word “die” especially “miserably”? Why do you enlighten me in such an uncheerful tone – with such words frightening to the bone? You remind me of John Donne who said Death cannot kill but awakens Life from the dream of mortality. Do you know of anyone who passed away miserably because such one has not read a particular poem? How can we then verify If only doctors perform autopsy? You remind me of a pastor whose members enter his church with bowed heads and lowered eyes, shoulders drooping like leaves in the rain; tremble in their seats with his fear-inspiring sermons of death. I rephrase, it is difficult to get the honey from poems, they lurk deep in the darkness of forest, in the path of woods. Yet those who patiently labour; still those who stand and wait as Milton said, eat of its honey, and it nourishes them; unlike Lethe and nepenthe awaken them to consciousness, fresher appreciation of life, definition, meaning and direction; transformed them, renewed them with beauty.
LONG LIFE FROM ZOEKU Hear the truth of the ancient water, and falling rain, the aged rocks in the forest, as crickets sing in leaf huts. Birds breathe, outspread against the air. Dawn chimes to all with secret tunes. Eggs in desert plants. Meaning ripples in stones. Hear the truth of the distant river swirling and swirling in ancient gyre among the trees, mountains, hills, cloud, rainbow, and wind: A woodboat is tied to a sequoia. Strange wind rises and swells in whirling tunnels. The thunder and the thunder light, whisper the truth of the ancient river: the root that binds dreams together, to our past; vestigial gland; the breath, and primeval farmland. Hear the truth of the ancient river: Kilimanjaro, Nile, Iroko, Monsoon; All that expresses the greatness of Life.
Nigerian Oritsegbemi Emmanuel Jakpa lives in Ireland. His poetry has been published in a number of online and print journals and the Echoing Years: â€ŠAnthology of Irish-Canadian Poetry. He is a Yeats Pierce Loughran Scholar.
MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON
GINGERBREAD LADY Gingerbread lady, no sugar or cinnamon spice, years ago arthritis and senility took their toll. Crippled mind moves in then out, like an old sexual adventure, blurred in an imagination of fingertip thoughts ~ who in hell remembers the characters? There was George her lover near the bridge at the Chicago River she missed his funeral, her friends were there. She always made feather light of people dwelling on death. But black and white she remembers well. The past is the present; the present is forgotten, who remembers, Gingerbread lady? Sometimes lazy time tea with a twist of lime. Sometimes drunken time screwdriver twist with clarity. She walks in sandals sometimes she walks in soft night shoes. Her live-in maid smirks as Gingerbread lady gums her food, false teeth forgotten in a custom imprinted cup with water, vinegar, and ginger. The maid died. Gingerbread lady looks for a new maid. Years ago arthritis and senility took their toll. Yesterday, a new maid walked into the nursing home. Ginger forgot to rise out of bed, no sugar, or cinnamon toast.
HARVEST TIME A Métis Indian lady, drunk, hands blanketed over as in prayer, over a large brown fruit basket naked of fruit, no vine, no vineyard inside ~ approaches the Edmonton, Alberta, adoption agency. There are only spirit gods inside her empty purse. Inside, an infant, refrained from life, with a fruity winesap apple wedged like a teaspoon of autumn sun inside its mouth. A shallow pool of tears starts to mount in native blue eyes. Snuffling, the mother offers a slim smile, turns away. She slithers voyeristically through near slum streets, and alleyways, looking for drinking buddies to share a hefty pint of applejack wine.
NIKKI PURRS Soft nursing five solid minutes of purr paw paddling like a kayak competitor against ripples of my 60-year-old river rib cage ~ I feel like a nursing mother but I’m male and I have no nipples. Sometimes I feel afloat. Nikki is a little black skunk kitten, suckles me for milk, or affection? But she is an eight- year-old cat. I’m her substitute mother, afloat in a flower bed of love, and I give back affection freely unlike a money exchange. Done, I go to the kitchen, get out Fancy Feast, gourmet salmon, shrimp, a new work day begins
Michael Lee Johnson is a poet and freelance writer from Itasca, Illinois. He has a brand new poetry chapbook with pictures, From Which Place the Morning Rises and a new photo version of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom. He also has two previously published chapbooks. He has been published in more than 280 publications worldwide in countries such as the U.S.A., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Turkey, Fiji, Nigeria, Algeria, Africa, India, United Kingdom, Republic of Sierra Leone, Israel, Nepal, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Finland, and can be heard on Poland’s Internet radio.
MAHDY Y. KHAIYAT
LURE ME NOT Lure me not, ebony Moon, lure me not, Into the dungeon of love. I’ve served my time; My tears have grooved my pillow. The years have sieved my heart. The steel bars have blinded my eyesight And blunted my senses. I’ve shaken off the harness, Shed my striped uniform, and Worn the white silk of freedom.
TIME IS A TERMITE
Lead me not To the wise men of the mind; Let their gilded gibberish Fall on waxed ears.
“I have a good life; I will continue to indulge Myself. As the cliché says ‘Life is short.’ ”
I shall sink my fingers Into the soil And uproot the rosebud of seduction.
You keep Flaunting your wealth And bragging about Your social stature.
ZERO SUM When you emerge from the womb You either win or lose ~ You either keep breathing Or stop breathing; The Earth, the gambling Capital of Creation, Gives you this chance!
Time is a termite; Those mahogany studs You have erected To support your Social worth may Someday turn to Hollow pillars.
If you continue to breathe, You are in for endless surprises. Studying probability will not help ~ Too many imponderables lurk In the shadows. If you’re afraid you’ll not make it, You may take up theology: the study Of certainty in an uncertain world; You always win if you follow The directions faithfully.
Mahdy Y. Khaiyat lives and writes in Goleta, California.
DANCING WITH DEBORAH When dancing with Deborah at our Freshman Fling it was not alone that our feet took wing but more ~ like ahhhh ~ this was all I’d waited for. Waited ~ but no more ~ as her lithe body, seamed to mine, and our thighs roved synchronistically aligned all suggesting ~ more than this in store. But Deborah, a mystery persists how did I resist a wish to grope your breast ~ what deterred me ~ from the rest? Did ghostly others then intrude: Their thoughts colluding otherwise (four unborn children balking me and whispering, beware the fog-lands of Chablis) each secret wannabe insisting ~ on another for its mother?
Syd Knowlton is a founding father of the National Writers Association Los Angeles and served as its first president. He writes fiction and nonfiction with an emphasis on the historical. He also writes poetry and contributes regularly to Views, the monthly publication of the above-mentioned organization. He lives and writes in Arroyo Grande, California.
CARDBOARD BOXES IN THE RAIN
I sing a threnody to dreams discarded, no longer needed; cardboard boxes gone soggy in the rain, icky ~ muddy-brown and slippery ~ they were once forts of travertine, a castle for a king, the pavilion for a queen, and too ~ an oh-so-private room where one might wall away the world and be no parent’s vassal. A place to be cocooned from playmates cruelty. Very much a churchy place where one’s sacred self was celebrated as the reigning monarch. Cardboard boxes gone soggy in the rain.
PAMELA L. LASKIN UNEARTHING
THE DINNER PARTY PROJECT
TO SAMANTHA, 18 Bring back the girl who lifts her dress like it’s an ocean, while the water whirls her into the rapids of enthusiasm.
Why no setting for me? I could appreciate glass chipped like my mother’s bones,
I know she’s there if I shovel deep into knee-high snow, and travel through twisters of tortured sorrow.
blood from her body Margaret Sanger red, tables with tapestries toppling over color.
I know she’s there waiting for you to dig up her smile.
I have climbed Georgia O’Keefe’s mountains, sat inside Emily Dickinson’s dreams --
CANCER Day by day the daughter watched her mother give her body up to the air, the flesh, a flag hanging from the mast of bones;
dared them to dine in a home where beautiful bowls --
the daughter was a mother for a month until the older woman was mumbling gibberish eating mush
shattered into splinters of schizophrenic horror;
Sappho’s, Sojourner Truth’s my mother’s,
so I sit alone, always a guest at my own dinner party.
ready to go back into the wound.
Pamela L. Laskin has published four poetry chapbooks, two full-length volumes of poetry, two YA novels, and several picture books. She teaches creative writing at The City College of New York, where she is the director of The Poetry Outreach Center. Two new volumes of her work are scheduled for publication this summer.
Today in Virginia, unseasonably cold, high only in the mid 30s I think of a night drive from Austerlitz an hour north to bring in my plants, early September. The sky tangerine, guava and teal. My own house strangely quiet, my cat at my mother’s. When I think of a night I drove from Austerlitz to bring in the plants, my mother young enough to swoop up suitcases, my cat, I was looking for someone. “Aren’t you glad you still have me?” my mother purred. The cat I got after that one, now going on 21, the ice yesterday a warning. I was looking for someone. Each time I left my mother’s rooms, drove thru Vermont leaves there was an ache becoming myself. When the wind tore thru yesterday, on the stairs, a shape that looked like lint with claws. Later I tucked the geraniums in quilts like putting a child under flannel or leaves. That ache, a wind under my hair My mother tucked in the earth. The headless fur shape with its pink claws or feet, on its back, a mystery. Today in Virginia, unseasonably cold.
IN THE RIPPLED EBONY COVE
THIRTY MILES WEST OF CHICAGO
Temperatures falling. Moon slivers on the rolling skin of water. Geese in half light, armada of feathers. Wind blows them closer. One silver band glows. Their onyx, black flame in a night fire.
paint chips slowly. Itâ€™s so still you can almost hear it pull from a porch. Cold grass claws like fingers in a wolf moon. A man stands in corn bristles listening, watching as if something could grow from putting a dead child
BLUE SLEIGHS December, the water moves dark between the snow dunes in ten thousand hills pulling light around the black stones, a sound to sleep and love by like bells running thru the childrenâ€™s sleep when they dream of blue sleighs.
in the ground
VIOLET JELLY picking the leaves Monday early in a cool rain huddled in wet sweatshirts. Hours in the gray, knees and fingers numb. Our skin smells of violets while they soak in the red pan overnight till we boil the green. Then the pectin turns them lilac. We pour them into glass, amethyst the sun comes thru on the window after snow.
Lin Lifshin lives and writes in Virginia.
ABRAHAM LINIK THE KISS
An unexpected kiss ~ a beginning? Lips ~ red rolling waves full of wine
I sit at my desk revising a poem
Yearning to be loved to be kissed
A nightingale perches on the windowsill
Kindling passion a fire
Flutters holds on and sings.
Come closer no one is here.
Come again. Visit often. And sing sing ~
So much sadness around. Rage. And grief.
Itâ€™s late. Words refuse to come. He goes upstairs.
I applaud your song your joy your soaring free.
Images flutter beneath his lids. He writes with eyes closed. Scribbles in the dark. Falls asleep with words on his lips. In the morning, from the receptacle, abandoned lines he retrieves.
Abraham Linik lives and writes in Newton, Massachusetts.
Suddenly they seem appropriate or so he thinks.
JACK LORTS THE SONGS OF EPHRAM PRATT
THE AUTUMN GREENING
The small boy with lanterns for eyes
It is the time
whispered in the wings of the dying circus.
of the autumn greening. Trees stark, leafless, against
He studied French when not performing;
distant brown, small patches of green next to the house
He hoped to do card tricks, to travel in Europe,
(questioning why on northern exposures?),
his smile drifting through the open door
green glistening in early morning.
of his soul. The grifters
Eyes ache and begin to fail,
were awaiting the arrival of the tent,
pains in places no one knows. Days begin late and end early.
the hiring of the roustabouts
November enters amid warmness,
who could blend soft
amid weariness, cools slowly,
Indian Summer days into soft
as greenness grows, disappearing silently,
buffalo nights and the songs of Ephram Pratt.
slowly leaving, into early winter.
FOSSIL That old oak filled with rot in front of the B & B, Mike cut it down last summer, Must have been a hundred years old. A plaque on the fence in front of the house Reads “circa 1905,” the house Once owned by Steiwers, hearty pioneers Their numbers felled like that mighty oak. Two blocks west, the Courthouse stands in silence ~ Centennial passed last year, front lawn filled With laughter from a hundred Fossilites Remembering ~ remembering a thousand Tiny deaths that make a history. While beyond the church, a cottonwood stands stark And silent, home to seven circling vultures.
Jack Lorts is a retired educator. After leaving a 30-plus-year career in rural schools, he retired in 2004 as Superintendent of Schools in Fossil, Oregon, population 470. He has published widely over the past 40-some years in such places as Arizona Quarterly, Kansas Quarterly, English Journal, Oregon English Journal, Oregon East, Agnostic Lobster, Abbey, and more. Lort has also published several “serial poems,” interconnected and inter-related poems by a number of different poets, in magazines, and two in chapbook and book form: The Great Oregon Serial Poem (Talent House, 2001) and The Other Side of the Hill: A Trek Through Eastern Oregon by Poet (Ice River Press, 2003); then in January, 2008, Puddinghouse Press published his chapbook, The Daughter Poems & Others …
JANET MCCANN IN THE HOUSTON AIRPORT I miss you already, the guy with the cell phone says. And you can tell he is not mentally en voyage, he is at home holding his cup out for more coffee and telling her about his trip but then, an hour ago, he was already traveling, seeing the miles unroll to the airport, the parking lot, the careful notation of where his little unit sits in the sea of vehicles, already greeting the chairman, opening his case plugging in the travel drive, revving up the power point, and she is pouring his coffee, a little angry he’s already gone ~ but now, waiting at the gate, he’s back with her, reluctantly torn away, looking at her half-opened soft robe he forgot an hour ago to notice … Sweetie, I love you.
WALKING WITH THE GRANDSONS across the mall, feeling the sadness of generation
my eyes screwed shut. already I am at the edge, their parents before me
for them what world, already sounds of jet roars overhead
what am I what are they a morning filled with hot, bright air
who am I who are they her voice, my grandmother’s, speaks,
and machine sounds delights foreign to my tongue, lips
ringed swollen knuckles but still: look, look at the willow tree
in the falling leaves stories untelling themselves
CONCLUSION After the novel’s end there is a sigh, the reader is dismissed to wander the streets alone, and the characters stand behind the curtain, relieved. Whatever happens to them now is all their own business. Sometimes the heroine has propped herself up so desperately to provide a happy ending, now she can die in peace. Those untold sins of her brother will remain unknown, all the ages. The props and scenery remain in place and the author’s geographical mistakes will count as truth forever. It is all right, the one great performance is now over. The characters flop into chairs around the room unbuttoning their tight clothes, wondering what, if anything, they will do next.
“NO UPLIFTING POEMS” Janet McCann has published in Kansas Quarterly, Parnassus, Nimrod, Sou’wester, New York Quarterly, Tendril, Poetry Australia, and others. She has won three chapbook contests, sponsored by Pudding Publications, Chimera Connections, and Franciscan University Press. A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she has taught at Texas A&M University since 1969. She co-edited two anthologies, Odd Angles of Heaven (1994) and Place of Passage (2000.) McCann coauthored two textbooks and wrote a book on Wallace Stevens, The Celestial Possible: Wallace Stevens Revisited (1996). She has also published essays on Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stevens, and Emily Dickinson. Her most recent poetry collection is Emily’s Dress (2004).
We understand, you want no poems like bras. No uplift. Let it all hang. flabby and tired, the way it is. But I would take a poem and fasten it around me and let it push me back to 35, a rubbery wired poem, a perky, peppy poem, a breathless-cheerleader poem. Who cares if she’s been done before, she’s eager.
CHRISTOPHER MULROONEY AHURA MAZDA the maker of light says to the travelpoint spectators aha and behold! I who make may be who behold may in the frankincense of the garters in the briskly-leaved paradises of the gum trees down the avenue Fifth Avenue to the sundown on the 4th of July
THE WINGED MESSENGER
and no further capers possible or even likely
how if to Godfrey the junior of fame be underage bawdry and not fit for same
THE FULL DEAL
the round tables on the square deck spill on the seas choppy waves of cards it is the Titanic say you and Thelma Ritter
the wire ditties and phone bells cling to the utmost towel of the Turkish bath where a plan she conceived startles the waitress dancing on the table
can you say onomatopœia and say that meaningfully?
and is born the maestro the maître d’
the calm swears by it and frustrates salmon going home to nest we haven’t the time for milt and case therefore spawn lazily on the riverbank and avoid the flytraps that abound all around like ballcaps on the annoyed
Christopher Mulrooney has written poems in The Northridge Review, Mosaic, Beeswax, Guernica, Vanitas, and The Delinquent.
A LETTER TO DILLARDS Hire a boomer to stand behind your cosmetic counter, someone who’s not my daughter’s age with dewy skin and made-up eyes. Give me a mature woman who knows what it’s like
OUR FIRST ISLAND MOONRISE
to see someone else’s face in her bathroom mirror, a woman
At sundown on Lanikai Beach, we join new neighbors, spread our quilt before an unfamiliar ocean. Strangers still, island life is lush with overwhelm. We clink glasses, applaud a gleaming curve of moon that lifts, almost dripping, from hushed water. Rounding now, it pauses to crown the Mokulua Islands.
who has learned to contend with crow’s feet and cheek creases, the picket-fence above thinning lips. Teach us women of the latter decades how to use those products you sell. We’ll line up for that make-up session. Swept to society’s sidelines, we have wisdom and perspective and money we’ll spend discovering how to be
Batwing clouds skulk across its face, smudge the crisp night shadows. Then, the moon slips its shroud, glides high on lit silk, scatters sapphires across the sea.
who we are while looking as fine as we can.
Stirrings begin beneath conversation’s shallow sand. Like holes miniature crabs burrow into the beach, possibilities open. Full moon leaves the black felt sky spattered with stars.
When I began a course in watercolor, I discovered I am drawn
Aspen branches stripped and gnawed stick sideways from an intricate heap
toward entrances. Beneath my sable brush, landscapes emerged
damming the small stream’s flow. In a thatched meadow, the new pond glints, serene as sapphire.
with unplanned paths leading the eye past the focal point
Ringed by water, a twig lodge hunches, a secret structure concealing under-
to blue doorways in stone houses, stiles on meadow fences,
water doors, cozy rooms. Flat-tailed, long-toothed tree-fellers huddle snug
garden gates. I have become a seeker of thresholds,
in their rich furs, webbed feet marking time. Within their slowed
a Believer in spaces opening just beyond.
winter breathing, beavers’ dreams twine the lodge in vapor wreaths: Scented spring gushing free! Pine spice and night rain tanging green breeze, quickening tender stems, crowning the meadow saplings in succulent leaves.
Trisha Nelson is a former educator who is both a poet and a spiritual director. She enjoys how these passions dovetail in her life. Nelson is a native of Boise, Idaho, where she and her husband reside after making homes in Denver, Colorado; Kailua, Hawaii; and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of journals, including Tiferet, ByLine, a national magazine for writers, Argestes, Buffalo Bones, Rain Bird and Buckle &. Nelson has work that will soon be published in Slant, Evening Street Review and California Quarterly. She enjoys learning, people, nature, and living in the West.
VISITING HOURS Hectoring Spanish memories of the Caribbean Sea when you lost your Yucatan cap on twilight waves in the frenzied wind by a saliboat’s gaze along capricious seas.
MARCH BLUES Bird Parker plays from an empty street, dusky flakes emerge through Venetian blinds, you eye backyard crows on elm, pine, and poplar, bliss stares from the sky even at winter’s height, ivory showers drift about ridiculous March clouds.
You were unprepared at lunch break suddenly caught up in the white-walled room of body worries eyeing tubes, water, blood in a travel of grief bedclothed in icy odor by cheering on words of comfort inside.
Putting a favorite denim on the capsized iron chair you resist staring at the doorway’s open umbrella, Salt and Pepper catwalk round the wood stove, a voice mumbling on the line calls up names and dates that escape your memory like the lucent snow outside, your life restarts its second nature.
Your noonday face stares at mirror, liquids, lilacs to the rudderless stop of a dead-end silence wishing again for the mawkish delight to phantom dance down river, forever.
WHO IS THIS BEGGAR? They call him names where the ice cracks by the grassy lot weighed down by snow cold nature’s pock-marked sky makes you blind in the swelling wind he shifts his frozen ground several times to take out pebbles from Salvation Army boots and walks on an abandoned bridge near the murky fields soaked into miles when time does not matter nor reflection or loss of bewildered curses, invisible hunger, amazed you were a child knowing the cold is always coming.
ABOUT THE POWERLESS So you think as the limping soul with a broken umbrella walks by the white trees always beguiled by pain on the earth’s red throat made up of angry words. It has snowed early even the darkness seems larger in a greenless nature only a sparrow is an onlooker you want to leave but it’s a poet’s sentence to be fleshly imprisoned not blindly out of sight.
B.Z. Niditch is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, and teacher, as well as founder and artistic director of The Original Theatre in Boston. His work is widely published in journals and magazines throughout the world, including: Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Art; The Literary Review; Denver Quarterly; Hawaii Review; Le Guepard (France); Kadmos (France); Prism International; Jejune (Czech Republic); Leopold Bloom (Budapest); Antioch Review; and Prairie Schooner, among others.
MARY L. PORTS THE FACE I can see beneath the mask that he has tasted life much more than I would ever want to taste it. A stubborn jaw set firm with greed betells it. Savoring forbidden fruit, first sweet, turns bitter over time; the hard, chiseled lines of pain explain it. I can see mirrored in his eyes much more than he would ever want to show: a glint of fiery hell and stark futility. I can see a downturned mouth of sorrow and disgust, much more than I could ever hope to bear. I can see a furrowed brow and feel a stream of thoughts rushing through the corridors of mind like ripples on a lake blown by an angry wind. To most, heâ€™s strong and fearless, born to seize the day. He lives it to the fullest, doing with it what he will. I sit back in silent shadows, dark, in comfort and in peace, and watch.
SUN NIN FAAI LOWK*
HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR TO OBAMA, FAMOUS OX Bright, patient, strong, inspiring, you come to sweep away misfortunes from the past, to open windows, doors and let the sun bring warmth and light for healing that will last. Prosperity, through fortitude and work send forth auspicious rhythms into play. A cordial, kindred lineage will not shirk new geniture of duty for each day. Bring on the food, the banquets and the praise Obama has been sculpted, now, to lead our nation, with stability, and raise with honest toil and patience, every breed. Light candles, dance with ribbons in the street, sing praises and bring prayers unto his feet.
*Note of interest: The above is Cantonese, in Mandarin it is Shin Nian Quai Le.
Mary L. Ports publishes frequently in Bell’s Letters Poet and has appeared in Rockford Review, Lucidity, Poetry for Thought, and Shadow Poets/Quill Magazine Poets at Work, among many others. Her poetry is also prominent on two Web sites, shadowpoetry.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Ports published her first book of poetry, Kaleidoscope, through Shadow Ink Publications in 2003. She taught for twenty-four years in the Los Angeles Unified School District with a focus on character development in her students. Ports has a lifelong interest in philosophy, world religions, and mythology. Look for her story, “Tribute to a Tree,” on page 75.
POWDERED MILK Every year of my childhood mother would stack emergency supplies in our dark basement ~ grocery bags of candles, flashlights, batteries, powdered milk, matches, peanut butter, crackers, and dried raisins as if these items could protect us from the same unexplained disaster for which we had weekly grade school drills hiding under our desks for protection. I knew nothing else would matter in the end but me grabbing my favorite Tiny Tears doll for the very last time and whispering our good-byes to each other because some indescribable and unknowable force decided there was a better place for us both than Earth.
WINDOWS Ever since I was a little girl I hated looking out windows after sunset. The fear began at the age of eight while walking down the creaky wooden stairs for a bedtime snack of milk and cookies. I turned the corner to face our yard and my eyes were drawn to a moving figure in the same place where years before had been my inflatable baby pool with ducks painted on its bottom. The figure wore a woolen mask and had onyx eyes. He jumped from side to side and signaled me to come to him. Petrified, I scurried back up the stairs, getting railing burn as I went. When I finally reached my bedroom, I poured myself into the arms of my doll and sprawled across my bed. I held onto her as if she had the power to save me. The truth is, she was the only one I ever trusted.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT
What floats through my mind now drifted through it one day in sixth grade ~ I wanted to spread kisses across the bark of a willow tree. Itâ€™s still possible to believe nourishing happened when our eyes linked on the porch where grandpa read his folded New York Times and waved to the passersby who cared to look at him sitting beneath the window where years earlier grandma took her life. We will never know why.
Diana Raab is a poet, memoirist and essayist who teaches at the UCLA Extension Writersâ€™ Program and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. She frequently writes and lectures on the healing powers of journaling and poetry. Her award-winning poetry, essays, and memoirs have appeared widely in journals and anthologies. In addition to other works, she has two poetry collections, Dear Anais: My Life in Poems for You (Plain View Press, 2008) with a preface by Tristine Rainer and My Muse Undresses Me (Pudding House, 2007). She currently has two prose books forthcoming in 2009, Writers and Their Notebooks forthcoming from the University of South Carolina Press, and an updated edition of Your High Risk Pregnancy: A Practical and Supportive Guide by the University of South Carolina Press.
OFF THE CUFF
TIM RUSSERT TRIBUTE How does one write an elegy for a world-class institution whose presence brandished rarity reaping global admiration, from Buffaloâ€™s stately wellspring emerged a model exemplar whispering fresh understanding for which there is no overture. A focused intellect wielding inspiration, a guantlet in conflict, pure dedication, through cryptic master, an unmatched legacy. A prime example, profoundly influential, a stellar flash lost, who passing without warning, shed an endless stir of awe.
PEARLS OF SNOW TONY SNOW
Drifting softly through lifeâ€™s passage of time by chance we came to know your style of zeal, paving the way with stern consternation, lacing a latticed framework, clearly voiced, your essence resonating sheer volumes to be recounted in times yet to come.
AMENITY An elusive entity peers down from a bird’s-eye view, above the forest, flying highly optimistic, achieving specific daily goals with key precision, provisions for the future, thoughtfully gathered, through meticulous efforts, fastidiousness ensures survival in all the coming eras, as similarly as the past. Woodpeckers rap it, the unsung message is clear, TAP YOUR POTENTIAL. What is true today is true tomorrow, if you stay true to your goals.
COST OF VIRTUE Can you love joyfully if there is no peace? Can gentle goodness shine through impatience? Can meek fidelity last beside intemperance? Patience is a difficult virtue to embrace, it requires diligent discipline and self-control, without it the true cost of virtue, is the loss of peace, and love and joy go with it.
E.B. Reed is a disabled Marine Veteran, who refers to himself as a novice, yet contributes regularly to Bell’s Letter’s Poet. He has also published a chapbook titled Intricate Insights, which is a collection of Haiku, Senyru, Rena, and Tanka. At the time of this submittal, he had no phone, computer, Internet, or library access due to the difficulties imposed by hurricanes and the rebuilding of the area around Gulfport, Missisippi, where he continues to write.
ALEX SHEPARD ASH Itâ€™s raining ash again dear, Close The window And try not to breathe In. Perhaps God is a smoker, Flicking his cigarettes In Heaven, without a care for the consequences Down below. Or ashtray clumsily Knocked, from off the coffee table While watching Sunday Evening Programs.
WILDFIRES Through the smoke The sun shines red Ablaze with anger, As are the lungs, with each Inhale, smoke and ash Falling like dirty snow Remnants of what once was A home, a car A mother of two And a teenage boy Carried now on the wind, Choking throats, wheezing coughs Clogging engine air filters No honorable scattering out to sea Simply inhaled, and part of me
A–Z All armies atone Badly, Before Burned Cities. Conflagrated, Downwind Everlasting extinction. Forever forgotten Goes gentle Helpless honor. Insulted, into immediate imprisonment Joyless journey. Knowledge, kindness, Lenient liberty,
kidnapped, killed lost, leveled
Malignant Majors made malice methodical. Now narrow night nods, numb, noiseless Operating, obscenely on our offspring. “Private! Pacify passion! Persecute peace! Punish pity!” Questions? Qualms? Rarely realized. Scorched sand sails, screaming, secrets Thieving Traitor! Undergo unavoidable understanding! Venerated valid victory vanished! Vaporized! Visualize vulgar vestiges. Whenever wicked war wages wasteful wrack Xenophobia Youthfully yearns, Zestful zealots.
Southern California native, Alex Shepard, is a graduate student at Cal Poly Pomona where he studies Rhetoric/Composition along with Literature. When not writing poetry, he spends his time working on his first novel, The Last Son of York, a fictional account of the rise and fall of King Richard III.
PENNY SKILLMAN HUMAN VIEWS With old age goes attachment to passion and desires; The monk practices diligently and with great effort renunciation and detachment; We revere the monk; is it because he sustains lotus position without rusting?
BABY DRIVER Car abandoned on the highway with baby in the passenger seat Morning headline ~ California Driver Loses Map
WHITE DESERT BLOOM
Piña colada watching the lizard
EARLY RISING Through lamplight a blonde hair floats ~ sliver of moon into brackish pond Prolific author Penny Skillman wrote books titled The San Francisco Fatty ArbucklePast-and-Virginia Present, The Cat’s Journal, has contributed to the anthologies Feeding the Hungry Heart, and Homeless, Not Helpless. She has a long credit list of short fiction as well as journalism. Three works in progress are titled One Olive Park Circle, a collection of four novellas; Californiation, a collection of short stories; and an anthology called Sex and the Writer, a collection of pieces dealing with the intersection of sex and writing that she is co-editing. Look for her opinion/essay, “The Panhandling Lifestyle,” on page 77 in this issue.
CHRISTMAS AT HOME Itâ€™s Christmastime ~ a magical time On Santaâ€™s knee the children climb To tell St. Nick their gift wish list But Mom eavesdrops to get the gist While the temperature outside is dropping Dad is busy doing the Christmas shopping Mom is in an apron. Just smell the baking The kids guess the presents just by shaking Is it baby dolls, video games, or trains? Mom hands out some candy canes Grandma pours a glass of spiked egg-nog Grandpa pokes the fire and adds another log Grown-ups kiss under the mistletoe While kids build snowmen in the snow On the door hangs a pretty green wreath The Christmas tree has presents underneath A special star on top and shiny decorations Tired children have great expectations While they drift to sleep they hear jingle bells Cozy and content with the thought that all is well
HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH Coughing and hacking Planning and packing Popped ears and page marking Drive miles & miles for parking Visit the mouse with big round black ears Take a breath and face your fears Waiting in a very long line Just paying the happiness fine Small world it is, after all Having a ball in free fall Laughing and flip-flopping Spinning and dropping Voice rough from all the screaming It almost feels like you are dreaming What? Wait in a longer line? The pleasure is all mine Ascend the mountain in space Cool sports cars to race Thunder and Splash Mountain Drink from a dirty fountain Eat ice cones and cotton candy Rotten teeth will be just dandy Waiting in line to join a line Meet the mouse and worship at the shrine Too many lights and loud bells We try to take in each sight and smell Pay for everything through the nose Grab the camera and strike a pose The whole clan together for a change The best time money could arrange Great family time is waiting in line No thanks to those tips we got online The party is over, so no one cheers We say our farewells through hugs and tears Why come all the way here for us all to bond? I guess the fairy godmother waved her magic wand Her magical memories ~ some toys and a shirt Empty pockets, a tan, and back to work Back at home there are no lines That is where our true love shines
Kevin Strong hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, CanÂâ€‘ ada. He writes poetry, music, scripts, and stories, when he is not doing accounting or doting on his two children. He has just resumed pursuing his lifelong passion for writing.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Here the sky sits on your head, light at a loss, everything an afterthought like knick knacks befuddling a room.
I Christmas Message
In gray high country, who remembers salsa steps of hope? Once rain’s mastered infinity, everybody plods a blues. I think of long-gone Zeus. He made us. He never liked us. That’s a fit father. Clouds could be smoke of beautiful butchery. forever failing to make amends.
GENEALOGY AFTER GALIMI
Lineage of spine and rose, blue lineage of dream. Grandfather, flyswatter and poet. Father, fencer and poet. I, writer of white weapons, duelist of word within silence
In the name of Jesus, Let’s get drunk! Someone else can love life: it’s too much like walking the dog. II A Family Remembrance Dad had no backbone to spare. I took mine from a squirrel. It bends like grass. It saved me from a life of jelly though. III The Day After Christmas Sometimes, light goes out of things and I’m a child off to school again. Snow’s heaped into ramparts, wind’s invisible pepper. A lone elm, pure blueprint, totters midway like a lost flagpole in Antarctica. Up ahead, kids are kept. It could be a castle. Big boys of the safety patrol watch us come and go. The wise heart is sad and slow.
I AM WHAT I NEVER WANT TO BE That old outrageous sorrow, lonesome loser, almost good as company, yet too loud, too wordy, too, too I: eyes may well while apart minding book & coffee, fate he should be used to, mule huddled among donkeys, braying savagely whenever he understands, as if heehaws made up for sterility.
MIRROR Never once small, always the fattest child around, he faced mirrors longingly, sure they like puddles windowed a better world. Heâ€™d stare down brotherly eyes, imagining a tiny astronaut emerging from the head he saw, white daemon, secret soul. It took years for him to be lost enough to pass for a man. Dressing up mornings to woo sweet money, he looks away from the wreck in the wall. Neither manages even a thought balloon.
The much-published James Tarwood won a Plainsong poetry prize in 1997, was a featured poet in Visions in 2002, and one of his poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2003. He has published two books, The Cats in Zanzibar and Grand Detour. His work has appeared in Red River Review, American Poetry Review, Eratica, Calliope, and Poetry Ireland, among many others.
KIMBERLY K. THOMPSON AWE OF THE SUN The sun ruptures through the clouds, it tears through the night’s ebony shroud. Its molten orb with its titian rays, holds the darkness at its bay. Its seething fire does amaze, it saturates our soul as we gaze. We contemplate its beauty in its array. The sun breaks through in a fiery blaze.
I watched you waste away, the whole year that you laid. I saw your bright blue eyes film over with confusion and surprise. Did you know who we were your two daughters, now your caretakers? You still smiled sometimes -a vague, haunting shine. I watched you die, day by day, until God finally took you away. So tears stop falling from my eyes, it’s been six years gone by. Mother, I never thought you’d wither away, until with Alzheimer’s you were diagnosed and became ~ a despondent little babe. God, my heart still bleeds, let me meet her in heaven someday please.
Lady in orange with flaming red hair how you are the fairest of fair. Sleeping lady unassumingly quite a sensation you’ve weathered well the time with your artist’s rendition. Frederick Leighton brushed on your strokes although you were napping so much was spoken. Your youth and your beauty, your long titian hair how it makes groves of people yet stop and stare. Beautiful lady, sleep on in peace your portrait, hearts still intrigue.
Kimberly K. Thompson has been published in Bell’s Letters Poet, Amaze: The Cinquain Journal 2006 Annual; Transcendent Visions; Northern Stars Magazine; and Laurels, West Virginia Poetry Society Quarterly Magazine. She is a current member of the West Virginia Poetry Society where she has won certificates of merit. Look for her flash fiction on page 85. She resides in West Virginia with three cats and a husband.
FEELINGS Our deepest feelings are never easy to express ~ They ride a narrow ledge inside the mind And tend to hide, so one cannot address Their keen realities; therefore, each must find Not words without meaning to either speak or write But meaning without words to give by thoughtful glance; For everyone contains the chord which might Reverberate when reached, and thus enhance The life of both the touched and the giving one Who breathed the thought that stretched from soul to soul And sang the silent note that soared and spun A web to snare the heart, its one true goal. Thus do feelings link our lives if shared; They touch and make us know that someone cared.
THE SECRET ONE Hidden deep beneath the shadows of my soul There lies the secret one for whom I search, For as an actor plays each complex role, I have so many Iâ€™s which quietly perch Like blackbirds close within my conscious mind And gulp the thirsty thoughts that must emerge To seek the misty light and leave behind The many facets which I wish to purge. As one by one the layers fall away, I know not what the stripping will expose, But as a cavern, hidden from the brightest day, Unfolds its mysteries as farther the lantern goes, I find the truth revealed which does exist If we but have enduring patience to insist.
WINTER When mother nature needs a rest From summer warmth and growing She sends the winter months along With a dash of cold and snowing.
Baseball stays a summer sport But winter brings the Lakers ~ A fireplace warms the winter nights or Christmas merrymakers!
Must my life be cluttered with unimportant things and all the trivialities that daily living brings?
In winter months the trees are bare And lawns do not need mowing, But that makes spring a special thing ~ A time for seeds and sowing!
Rather would I live freely upon the mountain peak ~ communing there with nature in the solitude I seek. I would dance beneath the aspen through some lofty rainbow door then rest upon a craggy rock and watch the eagle soar! I would revel in wild flowers that grow in such profusion or hide in patches of fog that come with soft intrusion. I would feel the sun upon my face, a warm and vital force, and sing and smile the time away till life had run its course.
Wanda Weiskopf has written poetry since her childhood in Missouri, where her “baseball” poems were regularly read over the statewide radio network for the St. Louis Cardinals. A retired opera singer and voice coach, she published a memoir of her marriage to conductor Herbert Weiskopf called On the Wings of Song: My Life with the Maestro. In addition, she has also published four poetry collections, All Is Not Winter, Listen to the River, The Little Brown Bear and Other Christmas Poems, and My Song. Weiskopf also submits poetry on a regular basis to Views and Bell’s Letters Poet. Although a Missouri native and longtime resident of Portland, Oregon, she now lives and writes in Southern California.
ALLISON WHITTENBERG WATER’S WINE The balance of bliss is pain The balance of pain is enlightenment The balance of enlightenment is more enlightenment The balance of more enlightenment is transcendence The balance of transcendence is alienation The balance of alienation is bliss
I tell myself Don’t remind Me you are gone
like two weeks like five years like coupon clippings From a thick Sunday pull out Shiny, vivid Promising bargains in primary colors Coupons expire And expire and expire
Lies are good But then I want to see you as If You are But you’re not
NARRATIVE Though they are numerous I will grant your wishes I am your angel Though my wings are heavy
Truth is bad
Allison Whittenberg is a poet and novelist, Life is Fine, Sweet Thang, and Hollywood and Maine all published by Random House. She is a college professor who has taught at Hamline and Drexel universities. Her favorite authors are Dorothy Parker and Richard Wright, and she lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A SINGLE PIECE OF GEOGRAPHY Sometimes I dream I am a tree, a thing who’s learned to live in one place and do everything that is important to it without moving so much as an inch from home. I’m told the roots of trees spread out as do their branches, keeping themselves balanced so perfectly even most monster winds cannot break their backs. These are creatures who no longer dream of returning to the sea, fellows who’ve learned to satisfy their leafy curiosities inside the mystery of stationary things. They are entities void of wanderlust and the need to stray beyond the point of no return. I envy how they embrace the wonder of life by dedicating themselves to a single piece of geography.
PTERANODONâ€™S CRETACEOUS MORNING AFTER A PAINTING BY RICHARD SARDINHA He has perched on a ledge of the cliff wall all night. He has known the meaning of deep chill, will lift the lids of his eyes the moment the sun stuns the cretaceous sky with hints of light. Flight must wait a little while. He shivers deep, keeps his skin-clad wings folded around his analysis of updrafts lifting from the valley below. Only once they begin their dancing will he move. Youâ€™ve never seen a takeoff like this. He will spill head first from his roost like a bag of bones thrown into a grave, spread his thin-skinned sails, then dovetail into the air and glide toward the sun. One thinks of fish and the small spined keenly aware of their usual enemies but not yet used to things winging their way above them, coming in for the kill, the shrill trump Pteranodon makes when, with one dip, he grips his prey, flaps his wings and rides the warm swarms of air back to his nest. He will pursue a few more meals before returning to his sleep where deep within his dreams other lizards begin to fly.
DRIVING IN TEXAS HILL COUNTRY Austin seems a thing of the past driving through these rolling hills drenched in lush smears of cedar, pine, elm and oak. Except for a few cacti, we might be driving past the bounty of the Black Hills or the foothills of the Cascades. Except for this road, we could be ancient Indian scouts or European explorers watching in awe as these verdant hills stretch out before us. If I squint a little I can see the end of the world from here ~ a hint of Eden, a place where earth and sky blur into a shimmer of turquoise and chartreuse glazed with the light of the sun. We are surrounded with what deserts can never do, hemmed in by the magic of what forests have done with green things all their lives.
Fredrick Zydek taught creative writing and theology for many years at University of Nebraska Omaha, then later at College of Saint Mary. He has published eight collections of poetry, with the third one, Ending the Fast, winning the Sarah Foley O’Loughlen Award for a quartet titled “Songs from the Quinault Valley.” He has a ninth collection forthcoming called T’Kopechuck: The Buckley Poems, and a chapbook called “Hooked on Fish,” which will be released later in 2009. Zydek’s work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Cricket, Cimmaron Review, and Yankee, among many others. He also edits for the Lone Willow Press chapbook series, but says “age seems to be slowing me down.”
MARY L. PORTS
TRIBUTE TO A TREE It all began the day I decided to volunteer my time in clearing away
some brush on an easement near Coldwater Canyon and Mulholland Drive. After the fIrst January rains, the soil was perfect for raking and pulling weeds. So filling my lungs with the brisk, invigorating air, up I went with my trusty rake, garden gloves, and a good supply of empty boxes. Working my way down the easement, I came to an old cypress tree that had been struck by lightning. All the greenery was gone and what was left standing looked just like an old, dead tree, yet, there was a certain majesty about the way its branches jutted out from the trunk. Raking the soil, I unearthed a surprising number of old glass bottles, which had been tossed out from passing cars. As I passed the old cypress, I would stick bottles up on the branches to get them out of the way, intending to collect them later in a box for recycling. One morning, as I looked up from weeding, I noticed how glorious the sun shone through the colored glass bottles. Now, unearthing an old, dirty bottle became as exciting as the times my family went on rock hunting trips, digging for jasper, opal, agate, quartz and other semi-precious stones. Once a rockhound, now I was a bottlehound, collecting brilliant jewels for the neck and arms of a lonely, barren tree, just waiting to be adorned. I was fashioning a â€œBottle Treeâ€? from surrounding trash that would light up on any sunny day during any season of the year. There was much more to decorating a tree than just planting a bottle up on a limb. Colors needed to be evenly scattered and spaced. Then there was the matter of getting some of the bottles on higher branches. I resorted to using a ladder, then finally, a long yucca pole. This became handy in raising up a glass fish decanter and homemade glass lantern with a yellow light bulb. Raiding my garage and medicine cabinet, I discovered many other different kinds of smaller bottles. What a beautiful cobalt blue there is in those old Vicks jars! What fun it was devising all kinds of colored glass ornaments for the old cypress. Step by step, as each problem emerged, a challenge was presented and the problem was solved. Working with the tree became an ongoing, joyful experience. One day, three people who were out hiking stopped by to talk. We decided that everyone needed a problem-solving tree of some sort on which to work and achieve that wonderful sense of self-satisfaction, which comes as a reward for such struggles.
One day, I was back at the tree, up on a ladder, reaching with my yucca pole to place a broken bottle up on one of the higher branches. A man and woman pulled their car to a stop and came over to the tree to say hello. They had noticed me working and wanted to let me know how much they liked with what I was doing with the tree. “You wouldn’t happen to have a camera in your car?” I asked. Wouldn’t you know, they did have a camera in their trunk! What a warm, friendly gesture — and such nice people. After taking some pictures, Janet and her husband drove away, saying goodbye as a stream of bikers rode by. One of the bikers waved his hand and yelled, “What a funky tree!” In this way, I met many interesting people while working on the tree — joggers, neighbors, Tree People. About two weeks later, Janet stopped by with her little girl and introduced her to me, bringing me the photos. I had fun and the memory will linger on. Vandals have now pilfered the tree. Gone is my brother’s guitar bottle, the wind chime, hanging fish decanter, and several other unique, pretty bottles. A thing of beauty may not be a joy forever if boys with rocks and itchy fingers, heavy winds, lightning, or just plain weathering and aging overtake the old cypress. I ask myself, “Why worry about an old tree and a mess of old bottles?” After all, my main intention was to just clear the land. Decorating the tree was only an afterthought — something that snowballed into an endless, far-flung activity. As I write this, I would like to think that I have made a “tribute to a tree,” one which in its prime had given shade, beauty, and cleaner air to both man and animal alike. Now, though devoid of greenery, perhaps the old cypress can retain a few of its glowing gems.
Art by Mary L. Ports
THE PANHANDLING LIFESTYLE “No Kindness, No Matter How Small, Is Ever Wasted.” This was a sixties
saying. And I believe it to be true. But when it concerns street begging, I’m beginning to wonder if giving money to people who sit on the sidewalks with a cup for donations is now such a popular event that panhandling has become an accepted lifestyle, a first, main, only job. Still, no retirement pensions, but many of us don’t have those benefits now either. Why do I see overweight beggars smoking three-dollara-pack cigarettes sitting out there on the sidewalk? Am I supporting “bad” behaviors when I give money to a sidewalk beggar? I’ve never believed that working by itself made a person sane or moral or decent, but it does give you control over areas of existence that you don’t have otherwise. In other words, it allows you to set hierarchies of priorities in more areas of your life than just eating and sleeping. And that strikes me as a good thing. A very wonderful thing, in fact. The street panhandler who begs as a lifestyle choice is taking up space and incoming money that a truly mendicant person might be getting. By giving our money, as a community we’re making a space outside on the sidewalks for someone to display wares to would-be donators. Nowadays, for a whole class of nonstarving, nonworking people, begging has become a viable lifestyle. In common with addicts, lifestyle panhandlers have a familiar core resistance to change, while often there is talk of change. In other words, the fantasy of changing has become part of the act .But what is panhandling about? Whenever I interact with Molly, who for years has sat somewhere on the same block and begged with a paper cup, who wears nicely coordinated clothing, and is clean and bright, I ponder the possibility that this voluntary panhandling is a more generalized, vaguer form of prostitution, which, in order to fulfill the supply-demand angle, requires the purveyor of the product to cling to various stories of victimhood in order that the giver feels they’re going to be instrumental or even pivotal in getting this person off the street. The “homeless” person (in Molly’s case, she was given a room by the city, and was never really homeless) sells an emotional tidbit, but is
constrained to always appear helpless and victimized, yet simultaneously trying to escape beggardom. She has, it seems to me, given up the victimhood of showing up at a certain time each day at a job, for a self-imposed victimhood. But her coping mechanism is but single-note. She’s shown me pictures of her son and daughter who live in Southern California, and she’s obviously proud of them. But I’m fairly certain the first time they placed the slightest demand on her emotions, she’d bolt. There’s no point at which she can accept responsibility in even the most nuanced form. Once or twice I’ve invited her to join me in a coffeehouse, and it was too much for her to sit face-to-face with another person. She’s determined to remain in a state of total dependency, and it requires all her efforts to keep the world from imposing, yet interact with the world just enough to ensure survival. Molly lets her donators believe they’ll be helping her in her salvation. ”With the help of the people on this street, I’m going to get off the street,” she told me once. She’s also at times told me she likes to paint houses, that she’s going to make watercolor postcards to sell on the street, that she was once an EMT, that she’s saved people on the street in the Tenderloin from overdosing, and that she helps out the police because she knows what’s going on in the streets. For the first two years I thought maybe some very small part of this might be true; I’ve seen her primarily as an actress, but not necessarily a good one. Her mode of panhandling explains why she’s resisted getting her missing front teeth fixed — while she may have a set of uppers back in her room, it adds to her authenticity as a homeless person to be missing her front teeth. This craft of creating illusion is also central to the power a prostitute strives for in his/her work. Yet sometimes I see Molly as simply a modern-day female holy person, like one of those wandering Buddhist beggars. One of the reasons people still give her money despite years of seeing her out on the sidewalk is that she looks as if she’s only there temporarily, with a bit of imagination it’s possible to see her reintegrating into society in some capacity other than begging. She told me a year or so ago that her successful sister from Oregon came to visit and disgustedly asked her, “But, how do you fill your day?” I told Molly I thought that was a very intelligent question, one we ought all ask ourselves frequently. What does it mean that modern-day America has spawned this new “industry,” in which the worker is a cross between an old-fashioned illusionist and talkingentertainer who produces “feel-good” moments for the paying customer, while failing, or simply refusing, to produce a work product that is perceived as adding to the common good? Isn’t this a reason our society looks askance at prostitution? I think in one sense the new voluntary panhandling lifestyle is a radical development and it threatens our old-fashioned notions of work, where mental or physical effort is exchanged for a product or service in an expressed process that our values have deemed productive. It is, in a way, a job attuned to our present everything-theeasy-way, fast-food culture, but one in which the work product has morphed into a momentary psychic satisfaction for the giver — “I have helped a fellow in need,” even though that need may be illusionary — and for the taker a psychic satisfaction of yet
another effective performance, as in, “I have got my craft down.” Perhaps real products, but elusive, more on a religio-psychotherapeutic scale, and hard to keep track of, regulate, or quantify. And perhaps having a social use in keeping these same people out of institutions that we taxpayers support. Maybe the voluntary beggar’s work is closer in nature to the magician’s act of olden days, or the stripped down pleasures of the opium den, where nothing appears to be happening at all, yet the seller and buyer feel a satisfaction nonetheless. And it seems to me that the more lucid the beggar’s presentation appears to the intended audience, the more successful it may be; in that respect it may reign in the mentally ill homeless enough to at least pay attention to the rational world so as to ascertain and get at its sympathetic heartstrings. Once on Market Street I came across a forlorn woman sitting on one of the concrete planters, hands clasped and head down, bags of tatty belongings nearby, and an orange crayon sign propped up in front. It said, Another Day In Paradise. I gave paper because I saw her as putting on a minimalist play in one-eighth of an act. Irony is the motherhood of art, isn’t it? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but it evoked a definite response. Likewise the sign of the panhandler I saw raking in money on the VanNess median the day after Frank Sinatra died: I Did It My Way. If someone can make you smile, they are indeed entertaining, and it can be argued that this is a form of productive work. But the spins on panhandling evolve, sometimes into forms I’m uncomfortable with. A year ago I saw a young woman with two young children on Market Street begging. She also had a cat. I’m torn whenever I see kids or cats, disturbed about what it says about our affluent society and its Judeo-Christian ethos. I don’t give to beggars who keep cats on the curb any longer. I stopped once to talk with a man on Market Street who had two plump cats sitting on pillows. “Where’d you get those gorgeous cats?” I inquired. “I rescued them on the side of a highway in Texas,” he said, and described how he’d saved and rehabbed the cats. I gave him more than any amount I’ve given before or since, because I thought he was doing productive social work, though on a small scale. Plus, I’m a cat nut. Months later I came across the same well-cared for cats, with a new panhandler. “Where’d you get those beautiful cats?” I ventured. The man looked thoughtfully at me over his glasses. “I rescued them on the side of a highway in Texas ... “ he said, continuing with the story I’d heard six months previously. I gave him fifty cents. Every single story in the city has its shelf life, doesn’t it? And the cats were well-cared for. More recently I’ve come across a woman on the south side of Market near Fourth. She sits crocheting with a sign next to her, which reads: I Have Four Kids To Feed, And I’m Pregnant. I found myself about to drop coins into the cup, then the thought popped up. Whoa! What’s wrong with this picture? Is this the newest panhandling morality? If you, stranger, refuse to help me feed this first four, I’m going to make you starve another one?
The amount of goods or money taken in is the gauge of the illusionist’s success, as it is in any profession. The product and work shift length and location have been removed from society’s regulating, or approved purposes, except for the ultimate spending of the money earned. Is the money a product of labor? Is voluntary begging theater? Is it a form of religious ritual in which the priest/priestess addresses the flock one-on-one for a few minutes in a publicly located confessional with a mobile work kit, including a donation box, on-site? Is it possible that each quarter or dollar we give to a street person is encouraging at least some teenagers, veterans, housewives — and now mothers — to take themselves and babies, toddlers, dogs, cats, or other “zoo-creating” dependents or props out to the urban sidewalk and set up a space with a cup and sign and claim it as their personal work space? Maybe we’re harming our greater society by enabling a dependent and passive compulsion, and not helping the individual panhandler either. We all know that young people can occasionally lack common sense; sometimes they have an undeveloped sense of right and wrong, and no practical skills, including not all that great an ability to entertain. And begging, it’s obvious, can become an addiction, it is a dependent behavior. There are very few skills to be honed out there, except those connected with manipulating strangers to give up money, and if you can’t dance, sing, or play an instrument as the beggars of days past, there are only two basic stances— pathetic victim of life, or friendly down-and-outer trying to get a foothold. What Molly knows is that it’s better to be friendly, say “hi!” to passing kids and adults, fix your appearance so it looks as if you’re trying, and merely temporarily out of a job. This, for her it seems, takes the place of responsibilities in general. For her and other chronic voluntary beggars this behavior doesn’t afford long-term self-esteem, it strips a person’s confidence in getting or keeping a job, and it erodes all self-discipline because it allows subsistence existence, which makes it possible to postpone any other form of self-reliance. Giving people money on the street may prevent them from taking charge of their existence, their emotions, any capacity to set goals, or make even low level exchanges with other people on an even basis, as an adult. Worst of all, I think, street begging encourages lying, of which we have already far too much in our lives, both as a society and in our personal relationships. Telling falsehoods is an addictive behavior, much more dangerously addictive than most people are aware, and in its serious form, constant unrepentant lying that is never set straight and has no immediate white-lie purpose, is a hideous form of abuse. In San Francisco, of all places, with its tolerant populace, and a Mediterranean climate that accommodates an urban camper, and few social demands or desires to dampen personal freedom, it may be a mistake to go on giving out medical help that is more dependable than what we going-to-work folks can get, or housing that’s better and newer than we can afford when we’re working a job. Molly was given a room by
the city. Cash is available to those who have a story and can sit on the sidewalk with a paper cup. There’s something in the process that turns society on its head. Especially so when services, food and physical and mental health treatment have become so expensive. How do we want young people in the city to observe and understand our values and beliefs about what’s expected of them in order to be acceptable adults, even functional? If you make a living begging, and you don’t need mental health services in an obvious way, does it mean begging for a living is an honorable goal? Even by middle school, kids pick up on attitudes, mores and values, and what they mean for others and for themselves. Later, in high school, it’s what skills do I need to make it in the world? What’s possible? Do we want children to learn sitting on a sidewalk is an option — along with telling lies and manipulating the system into taking care of them? And, more practically, it becomes a matter of numbers. There are only so many farming spaces on our sidewalks, only so many givers are able or willing to buy the product, only for so much time is it profitable at each location. And for at least some people who have been addicted — whether it’s an addiction to booze, pharmaceuticals, gambling, cigarettes, rage, emotional dependencies such as “romance” or sex, or panhandling, it can take years of struggle, using up enormous amounts of community and family resources, when an addict decides to try to get straight again. Every addict who’s been successful at recovery will attest to the battle to stuff the genie back into the bottle. It can damn near kill those trying to pull out of the morass of addiction. Precious years are lost in unlearning nonfunctional behaviors. If you sit on a sidewalk long enough, sleeping there is natural after a while, the same with eating out of garbage cans. The hierarchies of priorities diminish to one or two. Alternatives dissipate and hostility grows in direct proportion to it. I’ve been a giver of spare change and occasionally bills, but I’ve come to believe it’s better to only give food to panhandlers, generally speaking. I see too many people on the streets and in the park, and there’s simply not enough room out there, or surplus spare change, as the fat on the land is disappearing at an increasingly faster pace nowadays.
KIMBERLY K. THOMPSON
CLOSING TIME As I sit alone in my house in my rocking chair, rocking to and fro, the
eerie silence is broken like glass. Oh, it’s only my cats playing hideand-seek. My heartbeat thumping hard against my chest resumes it’s normal rhythm once more. I commence rocking in my chair. The floorboards squeak and the wind outside has begun to pick up, which exaggerates my feeling of apprehension. I hate waiting up for you at night, Jake. While you have your pleasures, I have my agonies. Please God, I pray over and over again, don’t let him be in a car crash, don’t let him get into a fight, don’t let him get picked up for DUl — keep him safe. The clock ticks to 2:00 a.m. and rings its chimes loudly, startling me out of my repetitive prayers. Closing time. Jake should be home before too long. It has started to rain hard. The raindrops pound on the house while in the distance I hear the low rumble of thunder. Soon the home is bombarded with rain, hail, lightning and thunder. Mother nature in all her fury. Please God keep him safe, I take up my praying, like others take up their knitting when they drop a stitch. Boom. Lightning glares through all my windows. Just as I get up to grab a flashlight off the stand, the lights flicker on and then off. Another clap of thunder peals and reverberates through the house. I look in the mirror and see two reflections. A reflection of me and, to my horror, a reflection of a man. I scream and drop the flashlight. “Honey, I’m home,” says Jake. The answer to my prayers.
THE SNAKE IN EDEN I am the snake in the garden of Eden. I slip and slither through the
wonderful trees and vines of this delightful place. Oh, it’s heaven to be in this glorious garden and to taste the sublime and luscious fruits that hang from these beautiful trees. Eve lives in the garden and I must talk to her. “Eve! Oh, Eve!” Eve is frightened and does not reply. “Don’t be afraid, Eve! Although I slip and slither through these trees and vines, I am really your best friend. There is something I must tell you.” “Oh you nasty snake! Get away from me!” “Is that any way to treat your best friend, Eve! I am the one who loves you and worships you. I will never cause you any harm.” Eve did not reply. “As your best friend, Eve, I must tell you that you have been looking unwell lately. My fear is that you are becoming ill due to a lack of nutritious food. “ “Unwell! Unwell! Yes, I have been feeling poorly, but what concern is it of yours, oh, odious snake!” “Well, there is only one food in this garden that has the power to bring you back to glorious health.” “Why on earth should I listen to a snake on the subject of diet!” Eve said sharply. There was a pause, then Eve continued, “But tell me the name of this food anyway, and show me where it grows. Although I’m unwilling to accept the advice of a snake on any important subject, I am willing to sample this new food myself and give you an opinion. “ “The food I am speaking about,” I replied slowly, “grows on the large apple tree in the center of the garden. The apples are magic apples. They not only restore the sick to glowing health, they also help with weight reduction. Although it is never pleasant for a snake to have to remind a woman that she is gaining weight, your figure, dear Eve, which was once pleasingly plump, is slowly becoming morbidly obese.” Eve’s voice was full of alarm. “Does it show! I know I’ve gained a few pounds in the last year or two, but morbidly obese! Surely not!” “Does Adam comment on your weight?” I asked.
“Well, he’s a man! What does he know! I value Adam’s opinion no more than I value yours.” There was a pause, then Eve continued, “But tell me about this weight reduction. How many apples do I have to eat a day, and can I combine them with other foods?” “The recommended dose for the best results,” I said gravely, “is to eat one apple just after sunrise and another at sunset. Some say that each apple should be followed by grape juice, freshly squeezed. They call it the Eden diet. But I’m not sure about that. I’ve seen good results from just the apples alone.” “I’m willing to give the Eden diet a try,” Eve replied. “My hips are a little larger than I would like them to be. I don’t necessarily want to be svelte, but I don’t want to be heavy either.” “You can always discontinue the apples if you become too thin,” I counseled, “but be sure to give some of the apples to Adam. He used to be buff, but he’s so fat now he looks just plain gross.” “I agree,” Eve replied. “I’ve tried to get Adam to jog or lift weights, but he’s too lazy. He won’t do a thing to improve his appearance.” There was a pause, then Eve said, “There is only one problem though.” “What’s that?” “The Head Gardener told us we were not to eat any apples from that tree.” “Well, he would, wouldn’t he!” I replied acidly. “The Head Gardener knows he can get a good price for those apples, so instead of letting you have the benefit of nutritious food, he prefers to sell the apples to the highest bidder!” “The profit motive has its ugly aspects,” Eve said sagely, “but I don’t play that game.” “Good for you!” I said as I slipped and slithered through the vines and away from Eve. For the next two weeks, Eve put herself on the Eden diet — one apple just after sunrise and another at sunset, followed by freshly squeezed grape juice. The results were astonishing. Eve lost her middle-aged figure and started to regain the youthful form of a maiden. Adam noticed the change in Eve’s appearance and demanded to know what she was doing. “I am eating apples from the forbidden tree,” Eve replied slyly. Adam was alarmed. “We’ve been warned by the Head Gardener never to eat those apples! You must stop this at once, Eve!” “Don’t be ridiculous!” Eve replied sharply. “I have it on good authority that the Head Gardener sells those apples to the highest bidder and makes an enormous profit. We live here! Eden is ours! As residents of Eden we have a perfect right to the apples. I say ‘no’ to exports and ‘no’ to the profit motive!” “This doesn’t sound right to me, Eve.” “If you wish to be fat and ugly, go ahead, but I refuse to let you dictate to me what to eat and what not to eat.” Since Eve had already violated the rules of the Head Gardener, Adam finally
reasoned that not much more harm would be done if he ate one of the apples too. Unfortunately, the Head Gardener caught him just as he finished nibbling on his very first and very delicious apple. “You and Eve have to leave Eden at once!” said the Head Gardener sternly when he saw Adam sitting near the tree with an apple core by his side. “I will not let anyone stay in my garden who does not follow my rules.” Lightning struck and there was a great crash of thunder. The earth began to quake violently. Adam fled from the tree and found Eve sitting on a large rock, trembling and terrified. “We have to leave Eden,” Adam said. “I want to leave Eden,” Eve replied. “This constant lightning and thunder is not good for my nerves, and the earth refuses to stop shaking.” So Adam and Eve left Eden. The next day they awoke in a new land far away. Adam got up first. “Eve, we’re naked! We have no clothes! Quick! Put this fig leaf in the proper place! We can’t go about looking like this!” Eve looked up at Adam and smiled. “I had the most wonderful dream last night. We never realized how bad off we were in Eden. We ran about barefoot and naked, rain or shine. Now I see us in clothes, beautiful exciting clothes, tastefully created by talented designers. I see malls with shoe shops and dress shops and hat shops. I see pant suits made out of exquisite silks and satins. It will be a wonderful new world, and I will be given a small plastic card that will permit me to satisfy my every whim. Oh Adam, this new world will be so much better than Eden!” Adam looked doubtful. “But what about the Head Gardener? He seemed so angry.” “Oh Adam, the Head Gardener did us a favor. Leaving Eden will seem hard at first, but it’s not just for us that we must do it, it’s for our children.” “Children!” exclaimed Adam. “What are they?” “You’ll find out soon enough,” replied Eve with her newfound insight and wisdom. “But first, my dear, you must get a job. I don’t like a man who’s unemployed.”
Jack Clubb is a former editor and writer for a professional newsletter, circulation just under five thousand. He has published in the Religious Science Quarterly and also has several published short stories in various venues. Clubb has more than two hundred published poems in periodicals such as Art With Words, Black Creek Review, Candelabrum (Britain), California Quarterly of the California State Poetry Society, Harp Strings, The Hatchling, Lucidity, The Lyric, Afetverse Muse (India), Midwest Poetry Review, Moments, New Writers Alagazine, Parnassus Literary Journal, and Moments, to name just a few. His poetry has been presented on radio in Washington, D.C., and he has three novels in progress.
CELINE ROSE MARIOTTI
ANOTHER COUNTRY SONG Chase Kingsley strummed his acoustic guitar and sang along to one
of his own tunes called, “Don’t Tell Her.” He stopped midway and put down his guitar. He tried not to think about her, but he couldn’t help himself. He felt the tears welling in his eyes. Chase took a look around his lonely mansion. He had success, but he didn’t have April. She had left him without any reason and he had no idea where she went off to but he missed her so much. His heart ached for her. He knew she had been upset about something, but she just wouldn’t discuss it with him. There was some deep secret she was keeping from him. Chase picked up his guitar and started playing his song again, which was all about April. Don’t tell her she left me crying, Don’t tell her that inside I am dying, She was the prettiest girl I ever saw, Her eyes so black, Her hair so brown, April in my arms, A special feeling, A special sound, A special time …, Chase wiped a tear from his eye and put down his guitar. He would finish the song later or maybe tomorrow. Now he needed to get ready for his performance tonight. He was playing to a full house of eager fans waiting to hear him sing his new hit, “Getting Ready.” He had to avoid thinking about April tonight so he could make it through his performance. Tucker Jeffrey came by to pick up Chase and together they headed to the theater in Memphis, only ten miles away. All the way they talked about Chase’s music. All thoughts of April left his mind for the time being. “The theater is going to be packed tonight, Chase. Y’all are really getting a lot of attention with your music now. Folks just love your songs. You’re a big hit in country music. That Danielson fellow called me today to set up a radio interview with you for tomorrow morning. So y’all have to be there at nine in the morning. We’re sure making waves around here, Buddy.”
“We sure are, Tucker. It reminds me of how long I have been trying to make it and how hard I have had to work to see this dream come true. Now I have had two platinum CDs and I am going to record this other new album, got a tour going, interviews, everything I always dreamed of when I was just a young’ un playing my guitar with my friends, you, me, Johnnie, and Rex. Now, here we are, all together, traveling all around the South playing our music and hearing ourselves on the radio. How sweet is that, huh?” ”Very sweet, Chase.” “Wow, we all are here already. Got to get myself ready for another big moment.” “Come on, Chase.” Together they headed inside the building, and Chase changed his clothes, putting on his blue silk shirt, white pants, and his cowboy hat. He chose his white acoustic guitar and he played a few tunes on it while he was resting in his dressing room. Then the moment came, he heard them announce his name, and off he went to be on stage and perform his music. There were so many people standing up clapping and singing along with him, and so much excitement, that Chase never saw her. But she was there all the while watching him, tears rolling down her cheeks. Yes, it was April, up in the back row, clapping and singing along too. Just before the last song, she disappeared. Unbeknownst to her, Beau, one of Chase’s security people, had seen her. Chase had just come out of the shower and he was sitting down to have a cup of coffee and relax, when Beau came in to tell him about April. Beau was hesitant at first, but then he just decided to blurt it out and be done with it. “Chase, I have something important to tell you.” “What’s that, Beau? Something happen out there in the audience?” “Someone, Chase.” “Someone? Some stalker? “No, April.” “April!” “Yeah, she was in the audience. I saw her leave before the show was over.” “I was thinking about her before. Even been writing a song about her.” “You want me to find out where she is living?” “Yeah, do that. What was she wearing, Beau?” “A pink sequined dress, a mini-dress, and she had a long necklace around her neck, big dangling earrings, and high heel shoes that have the straps around the ankles.” “Hmm. She always was a snazzy kind of dresser.” “Yeah, I sure do remember.” “Well, we best get packing up as we have to hit the road tomorrow and go to Montgomery for our next show.” “Yeah, and I need a little R&R.” Chase and Beau boarded the bus headed for Montgomery. Chase had fallen asleep for an hour or so, but he woke up to the sound of rain and thunder. The bus rolled along on the slippery highway that left Memphis and headed toward Montgomery, Alabama.
They had another couple of hours yet on the bus. Chase took up his guitar and started playing the song he was writing about April. Don’t tell her she left me crying, Don’t tell her that inside I am dying, She was the prettiest girl I ever saw, Her eyes so black, Her hair so brown, April in my arms, A special feeling, A special sound, A special time, Don’t tell her that I am crying, Don’t tell her that inside I am dying, April was a beauty, An All-American cutie, A real Southern bell, I knew her oh so well, April was sweet and kind, She is always on my mind, She was my one and only, But now I am so lonely, A special feeling, A special sound, A special time, April on my mind. Chase kept singing his song over and over. But he felt like something was missing. He just wasn’t sure what that was. He just kept playing the song over and over till he got tired of it and started working on a new tune. Maybe if he concentrated on someone new and focused on other important things in his life, his music would come out a lot better and it would feel a lot better when he played it. He got a new tune into his head and began to write it down. The lyrics were coming into his head at the same time the melody was. Someone knocking on my door, Someone wanting to know me more, Someone always calling me, Someone that I would like to see, How do I get this one right? Do I need some special kind of insight? Don’t want to make the same mistake again, Don’t want to be sad and depressed again,
Chase kept wrote more of the song, but eventually he was got tired. He had some coffee and a doughnut and went to sleep once again. When he woke up, they had arrived in Montgomery and the sun was coming out. Chase checked into the hotel along with his buddies, Beau and Tucker and the rest of his group. Chase went right to the radio station for his interview with Jake Danielson. He was happy to just be there and be interviewed by a man who was so well-known in country music, and who had interviewed all the big stars and helped boost their careers. “So y’all will be performing tonight at the Foman Theater? I hear y’all are sold out there.” “I sure am and I am looking forward to my performance there tonight. I know a lot of my fans will be there.” “Y’all are a born songwriter as well as a good guitar player. Where did you get the interest in music? Is it a family thing?” “My daddy and granddaddy both played the banjo and my granddaddy had his own trio. I guess I got it from them. I started playing the guitar when I was seven years old.” “You play the banjo too?” “Yes I do and I love playing the banjo. It is a fun instrument.” “I love the banjo myself. Do some pickin’ on it now and then. You’re working on a new album. What kind of songs are you writing for this album?” “A lot of rock-a-billy. And I plan to play the banjo on some of the other songs that are more bluegrass,” said Chase. “We wish you well tonight Chase Kingsley. Good luck!” “Thank you, Mr. Danielson.” Beau had a worried look on his face and Chase knew he must have found out something about April. As soon as they got in the car he asked him. “What’s up, Beau?” “I did some asking around and I found out that April is staying right here in this hotel. She is checked in under the name of April Jenkins.” “Why is she using a different name?” “I have no idea.” “They said she is all alone. And the lady at the desk said she had an engagement ring on her finger.” “Hmm. I sure wonder what gives with her. What room is she in?” “I couldn’t find that out. They wouldn’t tell me. But you can call and ask to be connected to her room.” “I will do just that, Beau. Come on; let’s get back to our hotel room. I have an important call to make.” Chase was anxious to get to his suite. As soon as they pulled in front of the hotel, and the valet came to park their car, Chase ran like lightning to get to his room. He got on the elevator to the fourteenth floor and went right into his suite. He closed the door and called the hotel operator to ask if he could speak to April. There was a pause; a click
and then he heard the call going through. And he heard April’s soft voice. “April? This is me, Chase. How y’all doin’?” “Just fine, Chase.” Then she paused. “I came to see you perform.” “I’m glad you came. Where have you been all these months?” “I had to leave. I can explain it all after the show tonight,” said April, her voice a little shaky. “Alright. See you then.” Chase hung up the telephone and held his head in his hands. He could feel a headache coming on. Just then, Beau and Tucker came into his suite. They could see he was upset. “Did you speak to her, Chase?” asked Beau. “Yeah, we’re goin’ to meet after the show tonight.” “Whoopee!! Y’all are gonna see April again! That’s great!” exclaimed Tucker patting Chase on the back. “Thanks, Tucker. I got to rest. My head is pounding.” “Y’all go to sleep and rest yourself. I’ll be in the other room pickin’ the guitar,” said Tucker. It was another packed house at the Foman Theater. The crowd was roaring with enthusiasm and singing along with Chase. There in the thirteenth row was April, dressed in a short blue skirt, and a white sequined top. When the lights were panned on the audience, Chase caught sight of her. But he didn’t let her distract him. He kept on performing. His career as a country singer was too important for him to ruin for a woman, especially if she might no longer care about him. “April is outside the dressing room.” “Send her in, Beau.” “Are you sure?” “Yeah, I’m sure.” “Come on in, April. Would you like some coffee? Or a glass of wine?” “Some coffee. Thank you.” “This is a little awkward for me,” said Chase nervously. “For me too.” Chase handed her the cup of coffee and poured himself a glass of brandy to calm his nerves. Beau stood outside within reach in case Chase needed him. Beau didn’t trust April. “I saw you tonight from the stage. Beau found out that you were staying at the hotel under the name of April Jenkins. Wasn’t that your cousin’s last name?” “Yes, it is my cousin Colton’s last name.” “Why did you take his last name?” “I wanted to try to have a new life and a new identity. Colton gave me the money to start my own beauty parlor in Tennessee where he lives. I am staying with him. Even though I loved you, I felt I was in your shadow,” said April taking Chase’s hand in hers. “You are a big, up-and-coming country singer, and I am just a young girl trying to find my way in life. I am doing well with my beauty parlor and I met a nice man, named
Harley Clevers, and we are engaged to be married. I finally found where I belong. I’m sorry, Chase, but it wasn’t with you. Please understand.” “I guess in a way I do. I know you always had your pride. I’m happy for you. I will always love you, April.” “I will always love you too, Chase. But this is not the life for me. I know you will find the right woman for you. Take care.” April kissed him on the cheek and left. Chase could move on. He had his answers about April. Now it was time to write another country song.
Celine Rose Mariotti started writing as a child and, when a senior in high school, she began sending her work to publishers. Her first poem appeared in Night Roses in 1991, and a second poem appeared in Green’s Magazine of Canada in 1991. Since then her work has appeared in many literary magazines around the U.S.A. as well as internationally in Australia, India, and Scotland. Early Bird Publications of India published her primary textbook of essays on United States presidents. Mariotti also writes a monthly column for PCM Magazine of India. Rock Village Publishing of Massachusetts published her first children’s book, Olivia MacAllister, Who Are You? in August of 2004. Magbooks of Hong Kong published her story “Leapy the Frog” as an e-book in April of 2006, and her poetry book, Through Celine’s Eyes has had wide acceptance. Mariotti is a longtime fan of Tom Jones, who, on more than one occasion, has read her poems to audiences in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Mariotti also plays the guitar and banjo and resides with her family in Shelton, Connecticut, where she continues to write daily.
WHERE THE GREEN PARROTS ROOST Sky gray, clouds roiling, ocean chopped, wind lifting mist off the chop. It was the kind of day Randal Carr liked to be out and walking. He saw her hurrying along Ocean Front Walk at about ten in the morning. Her torso and head were wrapped in a length of khakicolored cloth, face visible, hands clutching the fabric and holding it against her body. Levi’s were on her legs, sandals on her feet. She moved in front of a beige stucco wall like a picture, and that’s what she was in Randal’s mind, for he had taken her picture the previous year in Mysore, India.
Randal went to stop her but she avoided him as if he were a bum asking for a handout, Randal hunkered inside a jacket, hair blowing, stubble on his cheeks. “I know you,” Randal said. “I know you.” She tried to get past him but he persisted. “Listen. In Mysore. Mysore, India. You were on your haunches in front of a bone lady. Mysore Baba was with you. I knew Mysore Baba. I took your picture. I’ve got it in my apartment.” She stopped. She looked at him. She hugged herself with her arms. Her complexion was smooth, her eyes hazel, her lips thin. “Hey, really,” said Randal. “It’s true. I got your picture in a box in my apartment.” Her eyes went over his face. “Who are you?” she said. “I’m Randal Carr. Who are you?” There was no one about, beach empty, Ocean Front Walk vacant. It was a Tuesday. “I’m Rebecca.” They stood, wind running at their clothing. “This is important,” Randal said. “I know it,” responded Rebecca. “Come with me,” said Randal. “I’ll show you the picture. You have to tell me about the picture.” “I can’t. I’m already late.”
“Give me your phone number.” She shook her head, a twist of blond hair falling onto her forehead. She made to leave but Randal leaned and blocked her path with his shoulder, the stucco wall wedging her in on the other side. “This is important,” Randal repeated. “This is some kind of crazy coincidence.” She looked at him anew. “Who are you?” she asked again. “I told you. I’m Randal Carr, but it’s only a name.” Again her eyes went over his long face, flint-gray irises, prominent nose. “Where are you going? Is it more important than this?” asked Randal. She looked away. Randal waited. Then he looked to where she was looking — sea buckling and throwing spume at the shore. Randal brought his eyes back to her. She looked at him. “No,” she said. “Nothing is more important than this.” She shifted her weight and then she said, “Let’s go over there and sit on that bench. I know you have the photo. I know what you are talking about. I brought the English-speaking Baba with me so he could tell me what the bone lady said, she among others on that sidewalk where the green parrots roost in the trees.” “Yes,” said Randal, “let’s go over there and sit down.” They walked to the bench and sat down and looked out across the sand to where the ocean fumed, wind at their faces, temperature moderate. Cold would follow the storm, follow the rain that was approaching Southern California. They leaned and spoke into one another’s ears to be heard, his or her view toward the ocean, his or her lips at the ear of the other, Rebecca having pulled the khakicolored fabric back a bit to expose her right ear. “I wanted the old lady to throw the bones,” said Rebecca. “She threw the bones. She told Baba what the bones said. Baba translated.” “What did the lady say?” “She said the usual stuff about a man coming into my life and about marriage and about children and about the sadness of losing a child and about how that grief would be bearable because of the joy other children would bring. I told Baba to tell her to stop it and to tell me the truth.” Rebecca turned toward the sea. Randal leaned and said, “Did she do that?” Rebecca smiled as if to the ocean and its bruised horizon. She put her lips to Randal’s ear and said, “Yes, she did, but only after I gave her more money.” “How much did you give her?” “I emptied my purse into her shriveled hand.” Randal’s tongue came out to moisten his lips. His lips were chapped. “Did she throw the bones again?” asked Randal. “No, she didn’t. She only looked at the same bones as they lay on the sidewalk from the first and only time she cast them. As you know, it was sunset.” “What did she say?” “She said that the positioning of the bones is determined in the convergence
of possibility — time, matter and movement — all of which are unlimited and thus unknowable because unlimited is infinite and we cannot understand infinite. Perhaps someone would kick the bones or perhaps she would pick them up. In any event, either by hand or accident or malice, their positioning on the sidewalk the next time, and for all time to come, would in no way reflect where they had fallen this time no matter how often it was repeated, for their positioning would be unique each and every time.” Rebecca brought her mouth away from Randal’s ear. She smiled, teeth well cared for, face without cosmetics. Randal nodded. “The old lady said, ‘The bones lie in the present.’ ” A sheet of newspaper flew over the sand and Rebecca and Randal watched it until it went by them as both its sound and its image disappeared in back of them. “The positioning of the bones is random. Present is random. There is no foretelling it. But it seems to fall into a pattern. It seems to repeat itself. Yet how can this be?” “Yes,” said Randal. “It only repeats itself when it is of use, which is when we perceive it to be of use. Description is past, and past is our story about what happened. We see pattern. We see repetition. This is how we describe it because it is of use. This is science and religion. But the bones tell us that phenomena is coincidence.” “Coincidence?” questioned Randal. “Yes,” said Rebecca. “Things, be they animate or inanimate, coming together at a certain time and at a certain place. This is coincidence and it resides only in the present. It is no different than the present. It is the magic of this world and it brings us everything, both joy and suffering. We throw the bones and they stop on the sidewalk before our eyes. We read them. We make up a story, which is description. If it fits our needs, it is truth. If it doesn’t, it is ignored or scorned. The truth of a recipe is that it meets our needs.” “Is that what the old lady said?” “This is what Baba said she said.” Randal brought a hand up to stroke his jaw and then lowered it. “Did this meet your needs?” asked Randal. “No, not this — something else. But it was then that I stopped searching. I don’t know why.” “What happened?” “I took a train to Delhi and bought a plane ticket and flew home.” “That was the answer. That was the future.” “No,” said Rebecca. “Future is speculation. It is guessing. It is fantasy. It is hope and fear. “I’m glad you stopped me,” said Rebecca, “because I often forget that coincidence is with us all the time. It is the uniqueness of this world. It is vibrant, vivid, and precise. It is never the same. It sometimes takes something as extraordinary as a stranger walking up and saying that he’s got a photo from when I learned this truth. The lady
with the bones on the sidewalk was what I needed even though I didn’t know it, for what I needed was to see myself as part of coincidence. It wasn’t what the bone lady said. It was what the bone lady said while the bones lay on that sidewalk in front of me and Baba and her when the sun was setting and the parrots were returning to the trees. It was coincidence, and I was inseparable from it.” Randal looked at her face, at her ear, at a tiny red stone tucked into the lobe of that ear. Randal was stalled, for everything in his vision was absolutely vivid. He turned and looked out — sand beveled, sea boiling, clouds scudding. They sat, Rebecca and Randal, and when their silence was the beach and the ocean and the sky, Rebecca leaned and whispered, “The bones — a snapshot of coincidence. It is why we are here.”
Michael Onofrey grew up in Los Angeles, but now lives in Japan, where he teaches English as a Second Language. His stories have appeared in The Evansville Review, Oyez Review, and The William and Mary Review, as well as in other literary journals.
This collection of twentythree poems is the fourth in a series of poetry books published by Wanda Weiskopf. Illustrated with charcoal drawings by LaVonne Taylor, this volume reflects concisely, yet with great depth of feeling, the life experiences of its author. Previous titles include: Poetry - All Is Not Winter, Listen to the River, The Little Brown Bear and Other Christmas Poems
Biography/Memoir: On the Wings of Song: My Life with the Maestro Your life seems to have been especially interesting and rewarding … You sound like an introspective person whose poetry comes deeply from within. — Wanda Z. Larson, Radio KOPB, Portland, Oregon Her first collection of poems, All Is Not Winter, received high critical praise, such as: “Wanda has given us a book of pure joy … the poetry is exquisite.” — World of Poetry
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